T. S. ELIOT by Philip H. Headings


Email this review


() To add another book about Eliot to the library shelf is rather like bringing to Newcastle. Still they keep coming, and the latest- a product of Twayne's U.S. Author's Series- is, so the author admonishes us, intended ""to sketch, in terms as simple as seem to me appropriate, the central schemes of the major works."" What it all amounts to is a moderately reliable, regular-feature study for the beginning student, with a departure here and there from the norm; i.e., in its insistence upon the antesque influence in philosophic, psychological and aesthetic terms. The author, for all his musty, mousing-about style, is well-read in the poems and plays, in the ore well-known critiques concerning them, in the biographical backgrounds, and the cultural currents-the Elizabethans, the Metaphysicals, the French, Pound etc.- out of which they flowed. He emphasizes Eliot's later Christian redemptive mode often at the expense of the early ""negativism"" (Sweeney, Prufrock, Gerontion, and The Waste Land), and thus Ash Wednesday and Four Quartets are analysed with the most relish and the most flattering appreciation. However, everything here is pretty much up on Parnassus- even the plays can do no wrong; a touchy point since they are not universally regarded as chef-d'oeuvres. The author's paraphrasing and stressing of the underlying unity of Eliot's themes tend to turn some of the beautiful complexities into commonplaces. But it's a good guide, clearly demonstrating how Eliot has summed up the 20th century temper- ""the boredom, the horror and the glory""- better than anyone else in whatever medium.

Publisher: Twayne