T. S. ELIOT: A Study in Character and Style by Ronald Bush

T. S. ELIOT: A Study in Character and Style

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Eliot's power,"" Bush asserts near the start of this conscientious overview, ""is a result not of feeling and intellect working hand-in-glove but of powerful emotion held in powerful check."" True, this view is not particularly original. But the tension it describes sets Bush out in a generally fruitful direction. He makes clear how, from The Waste Land (the world through a jaundiced eye) to the dark pessimism and limited compassion of the Four Quartets, Eliot is working as much to numb the reality leaning upon him as to redeem it. And Bush (The Genesis of Pound's Cantos) firmly illustrates how Eliot's literary influences were apparently absorbed--Dante (the Purgatorio, the Vita Nuova), then St. John Perse, Shakespeare, St. John of the Cross, and MallarmÉ: the transmutation of these elements into Eliot's gleaming classical personalism--a new voice in modern poetry--is lucidly chronicled. (Especially impressive: Bush's analysis of the odd conjuncture of MallarmÉ and Anglicanism that made the Four Quartets possible.) As a biographical character-study, on the other hand, this is sparse and thready at best. Bush's dry, faintly droning style is also a drawback. Overall, however: a careful, detailed, literary-and-humanistic appreciation--with considerable value for students at various levels.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1984
Publisher: Oxford Univ. Press