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The Vanity of Human Wishes

  • G. Douglas Atkins
Chapter
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Abstract

Reading is always the issue in confronting T.S. Eliot’s difficult poetry, The Waste Land being a prime example. The matter may resolve itself into a question of the movement of the poet’s imagination. In this regard, assisted by both statements in his essays and the example of his poetic practice, we may not locate a road map to his intentions, but likely to help is a focus attentive to verbal details, engaging in active comparison of words, images, and passages, and leading to prolonged “meditation.” Shown here to be a satire, Eliot’s most famous and probably most influential poem itself connects with several of his essays written around the same time in seeking to “associate” the separated, to “amalgamate disparate experience,” and to make such connections as the wastelanders are unable to or will not make.

Keywords

Introductory Essay North American Literature Disparate Experience Poetic Practice Dramatic Monologue 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    T.S. Eliot and Valerie Eliot, The Waste Land: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts Including the Annotations of Ezra Pound (London: Faber and Faber, 1971).Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Ezra Pound, “Arnaut Daniel,” Instigations (New York: Boni and Liveright, 1920), 286.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    T.S. Eliot, introductory essay, “London: A Poem” and “The Vanity of Human Wishes,” Samuel Johnson (London: Frederick Etchells and Hugh Macdonald, 1930).Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    T.S. Eliot, “Ulysses, Order, and Myth,” The Dial, n.s. (Fall 1959), 153–58 (originally published in The Dial, November 1923).Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    T.S. Eliot, preface, Anabasis, St.-J. Perse, trans. Eliot (London: Faber and Faber, 1930), 8.Google Scholar
  6. 6.
  7. 7.
    T.S. Eliot, “The Metaphysical Poets,” Selected Essays, 3rd. edn (London: Faber and Faber, 1951), 289 (italics added).Google Scholar
  8. 8.
    Ibid., 287.Google Scholar
  9. 9.
    T.S. Eliot, The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (London: Methuen, 1920), 33.Google Scholar
  10. 10.
    See, esp., my T.S. Eliot Materialized: Literal Meaning and Embodied Truth (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012).Google Scholar
  11. 11.
    T.S. Eliot, “Lancelot Andrewes,” Selected Essays, 347.Google Scholar
  12. 12.
    Paul J. Griffiths, Religious Reading: The Place of Reading in the Practice of Religion (New York: Oxford UP, 1999), 40–45.Google Scholar
  13. 13.
    Eliot, “Lancelot Andrewes,” 347–48.Google Scholar
  14. 14.
    Griffiths, Religious Reading, ix.Google Scholar
  15. 15.
  16. 16.
    E.B. White, foreword, Essays (New York: Harper and Row, 1977), vii.Google Scholar
  17. 17.
    T.S. Eliot, preface, Thoughts for Meditation: A Way to Recovery from Within, sel. and arr. N. Gangulee (London: Faber and Faber, 1951), 11–12.Google Scholar
  18. 18.
    Ibid., 12–13.Google Scholar
  19. 19.
    Ibid., 13.Google Scholar

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© G. Douglas Atkins 2013

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  • G. Douglas Atkins

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