Selected Essays, 1917-1932

by T. S. Eliot

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Listen to some classical music by Igor Stravinsky and others, written between 1917 and 1932. Describe its form using the criteria of Selected Essays, 1917-1932. How does Eliot's artistic theory apply to it? What do you think he would say about it? Then, listen to some music from the same time period by Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington. Write a comparative review in Eliot's style, describing the artistic merits of the two types of music and how each fits into the tradition of Western music.

Some critics (most notably Anthony Julius in his book T. S. Eliot, Anti-Semitism, and Literary Form) have accused Eliot of being anti-Semitic, and others have accused him of being a fascist. Research the history of this response to Eliot's work and his personal life and write an essay in which you discuss these theories and whether or not they are well founded. If these findings are true, do you think students should therefore not be reading Eliot's works?

Read Eliot's Collected Poems. How does his critical theory relate to his poetry, and how would he fare under his own standards?

Read one of the works that Eliot discusses at length in Selected Essays, 1917-1932 and research other criticism on the work you choose. Does Eliot have a unique viewpoint? Do other critics follow a similar method of analysis? Do you agree with what Eliot says about the work?

Eliot discusses philosophy and theology at length, and both are extremely important to his critical theory. Do some reading of early twentieth-century philosophers or theologians who discuss art at some point in their theories (F. H. Bradley, for example). What is the main philosophical trend of the time? How does Eliot fit into it?

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