Friday, 29 March 2013

T. S. Eliot as a Critic

Besides being a poet, playwright and publisher, T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) was one of the most seminal critics of his time. Carlo Linati, his Italian critic, found his poetry to be ‘irrational, incomprehensible… a magnificent puzzle’, and in his poetic endeavors ‘a deliberate critical purpose’. Also in his literary criticism Eliot’s personality has found its full expression. Thus Eliot’s literary criticism can be seen as expression of his poetic credo. As one of the seminal critics of the twentieth century; Eliot shows a disinterested endeavour of critical faculty and intelligence in analyzing a work of art. For the sake a systematic discussion, his critical works may be grouped under the following headings:

a) theoretical criticism dealing with the principles of literature,
b) descriptive and practical criticism dealing with the works of individual writers and evaluation of their achievements, and

c) theological essays.

Tradition and Individual Talent’ has been one of his extraordinarily influential critical works. It was first published in 1922 in Sacred Woods, and was subsequently included in the ‘Selected Essays’ (1917-1932). In this essay, Eliot has primarily dealt with his concepts of 

1. Historical Sense, and Tradition
2. Interdependence of the past and the present
3. Impersonality in art in general and poetry in particular

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