‘No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone.’ (TS Eliot, ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’). Discuss with reference to at l...

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‘For books continue each other, in spite of our habit of judging them separately.’ – A Room of One’s Own, Virginia Woolf Eliot’s philosophical view point on modern literature takes a platonic standpoint in relation to imitation, or more so the art of imitation. Eliot states that ‘Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.’ His poem ‘The Waste Land’ echoes this idea of imitating a piece of art to produce something new, seemingly a text such as The Waste Land ‘is fundamentally dramatic in character’; (pg 11 Macmillan) and within the notion of modernity the reader faces a complex task of connecting with any authorial intention. However, a key aspect of modernist literature was to imitate daily life, essentially the roles are reversed as daily life, particularly in the modernist era, often imitated art. Eliot references a vast amount of literature and language within his work, and ironically finds his originality through his extensive imitation ‘in which impressions an experiences combine in peculiar and unexpected ways.’ (pg 18 Macmillan) If one agrees with the notion of art imitating life and vice versa, then it is arguable that originality is not the main objective, rather ones subjective individuality assigned to the text. Critical theorist Frank Kermode, found the art of imitation a pleasing one, on analysis of the canon Kermode states that canonical texts ‘completely locked in their times, their texts as near frozen as devout scholarship can make them, their very language more and more remote’(Kermode: p 29) . Yet he goes on to say that paradoxically, writers works, ‘by this same fact, are set free of time’. Kermode... ... middle of paper ... ...e his classification of beauty. Again there is a direct link to religion and the Virgin Mary whereby Eliot is drawing a connection between the physical beauty of this women (‘Belladonna’) and the moral beauty encapsulated in the story of Mary within the Bible. The importance of this reference can be noted in Eliot’s essay, ‘Tradition and The Individual Talent’, in which he describes how history is a timeless influence over any author or artist, this is not a form of plagiarism, rather an inescapable notion of influence bound in the authors bones. ‘This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional.’ (ref) Indeed, Eliot does show his appreciation for ‘the dead poets and artists’ by often referencing the likes of William Shakespeare and Dante Alighieri.

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