Argument and Parody in T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets Essay

Argument and Parody in T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets Essay

Length: 6609 words (18.9 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Powerful Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

The Seduction of Argument and the Danger of Parody in T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets

Though its more lyrical passages present detailed and evocative imagery, substantial portions of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets afford no such easy approach. Since the initial appearance of "Burnt Norton" it has been a critical commonplace to regard these portions of the text as at once its most conceptually profound and its most formally prosaic. Of course, the Quartets offer enough cues toward this critical attitude that it may fairly be said to reside within the poem at least as much as it is imposed from without. As the text of the poem itself apparently gives license to the view that its "poetry does not matter," the preponderance of critical attention to the Quartets' non-lyrical passages has been devoted to philosophical and theological paraphrase of its argument, to explicating the system of belief or thought behind the words. Meanwhile, relatively little attention has been paid to the working of the poetry itself, to the construction of the presumed meaning, in these "discursive" or "conceptual" passages. Seduced by the desire for a systematic argument, criticism has overestimated these passages' straightforwardness and largely neglected their ambiguity and indeterminacy. The seductive voice of argument – which is already a voice within the poem – invites conceptual scrutiny but repels formal analysis; it displaces the concerns of "poetry" in order to work its poetry undetected. I will be reading critically several critical discussions, but always in the belief that the criticism's concerns are not projected onto the poem from without, but express the critical voices within the poem.

The seduction of reading the Four Quartets as a systema...


... middle of paper ...


...loise Knapp. T.S. Eliot's Negative Way. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1982.

Kenner, Hugh. The Invisible Poet: T.S. Eliot. London: Methuen & Co., 1965.

Orwell, George. "T.S. Eliot." In T.S. Eliot: Four Quartets: A Casebook. Ed. Bernard Bergonzi. London: Macmillan, 1969.

Reed, Henry. "Chard Whitlow." In Collected Poems, p. 15. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Shapiro, Karl. "Poetic Bankruptcy." In T.S. Eliot: Four Quartets: A Casebook. Ed. Bernard Bergonzi. London: Macmillan, 1969.

Thompson, Eric. T.S. Eliot: The Metaphysical Perspective. Carbondale, Ill.: Southern Illinois University Press, 1963.

Times Literary Supplement. "Mr T.S. Eliot's Confession." In T.S. Eliot: Four Quartets: A Casebook. Ed. Bernard Bergonzi. London: Macmillan, 1969.

Traversi, Derek. T.S. Eliot: The Longer Poems. London: The Bodley Head, 1976.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

Essay about Eliot's East Coker and Linguistic Devices

- The use of language, (taking into account the reader-response theory of Wolfgang Iser), and the cyclical nature of East Coker In my beginning is my end. In succession Houses rise and fall, crumble, are extended, Are removed, destroyed, restored, or in their place Is an open field, or a factory, or a by-pass. In this discussion I shall be examining Eliot's use of a range of linguistic devices in East Coker. The discussion will focus on how T. S. Eliot (1888 - 1965) employs the medium of language to parallel and reflect his perception of the cyclical and repetitive patterns of the life and death process....   [tags: Eliot East Coker Language Essays]

Free Essays
3020 words (8.6 pages)

Essay about T.s. Eliot And Society

- Modernism was the time period between 1865 and 1950 that consisted of a change in the perspectives of how Americans examined themselves and their role in society. Many things occurred during these eighty five years that accounted for a great social change. Among these things were World War I, the Civil Rights Movement, prohibition, women suffrage, and the Great Depression. Particularly after World War I and during women’s suffrage, society’s standpoint on certain issues changed dramatically. After World War I, people’s attitudes swung with high expectations for themselves but were soon lowered after the economy’s fall....   [tags: essays research papers fc]

Powerful Essays
1467 words (4.2 pages)

Essay about The String Quartets by Ludwig Van Beethoven

- The string quartets of Ludwig Van Beethoven were written over a long period of his life, stretching from 1799 to 1826. The tragedies that occurred throughout Beethoven’s life did not stop him from writing these seventeen masterpieces. The string quartets can be divided into three periods; early middle and late with the first six quartets of Op. 18 marking his ‘early’ works. As Beethoven’s writing began to flourish with creativity and imagination, he wrote the ‘Rasumovsky’ quartets that mark the ‘middle’ period in his career....   [tags: masterpieces, melodic expression]

Powerful Essays
2064 words (5.9 pages)

Use of the Epigraph in George Eliot's Middlemarch Essay

- Use of the Epigraph in George Eliot's Middlemarch The epigraph is an unusual, though not uncommon, form of citation. It is a part of the text yet distinct from it. White space and specialized formatting, such as italics, separate the epigraph from the main text, thereby challenging the reader to determine the relationship between the two. Unlike a typical quotation, which dwells in the midst of the text, illuminating one point in the argument, the epigraph's unique positioning prior to the body of the text highlights particular ideas, words, or images and thereby guides the reading of the entire argument....   [tags: Eliot Middlemarch Essays]

Powerful Essays
605 words (1.7 pages)

Eliot Vs. Wallace Stevens Essay

- Devica Davis-Kilpatrick Professor Babbitt Modernist Poetry May 1, 2015 T. S. Eliot vs. Wallace Stevens During T. S. Eliot’s time many of his contemporaries including himself were in the custom of alluding to classic works of poetry. They incorporated references to notable texts like Dante. Eliot especially is a main perpetrator of alluding. Eliot has the ability create a picture for the reader and provide historical context to his works. A contemporary of Eliot, Pound, once said you should try to “be influenced by as many great artists as [they] can” (Pound 95)....   [tags: T. S. Eliot, Poetry, Modernism, Ezra Pound]

Powerful Essays
1780 words (5.1 pages)

Essay about The Wasteland By Eliot. Eliot

- In The Wasteland, T.S. Eliot offers a wonderful insight to the spiritual aspect of the modern world. The wasteland that is described in the poem consists of a dried up and waterless land. Throughout the poem, Eliot looks for us to find a solution on how to rescue ourselves from what is known as the wasteland. To come to the full solution, he asks that we must give ourselves in the way of sacrifice. Another way to look at sacrifice is in Christianity, it has a tie into the theme of love. In order to come to this solution, it is very important to look deeper into the meaning of the poem and the way it is related to religion....   [tags: The Waste Land, T. S. Eliot, Meaning of life]

Powerful Essays
1106 words (3.2 pages)

Essay about Analysis of T. S. Eliot's East Coker

- Analysis of T. S. Eliot's East Coker        The early poetry of T. S. Eliot, poems such as "The Wasteland" or "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", is filled his despair of the human condition. Man is a weak soul, easily tempted and filled with lusts, who has no hope of redemption. These views of man did not change when Eliot converted to Catholicism. Eliot still maintained man's desperate plight, but supplemented that belief with the notion that man has some hope through the work of Christ....   [tags: Eliot East Coker Essays]

Powerful Essays
2345 words (6.7 pages)

Television and Media Essay - Four Arguments for the Elimination of TV

- Four Arguments for the Elimination of Television Television technology has been a controversial issue since its debut in the early 1940s. In order to fully understand any controversial issue, one must be presented with both the pro and the con sides of the issue. One must understand and be able to argue both sides of the issue in order to become a successful and well-educated person. Being a member of the pro-technological society, one is well educated on the pro side of this issue....   [tags: Media Argumentative Persuasive Argument]

Powerful Essays
2657 words (7.6 pages)

The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot Essay

- The Mill on the Floss by George Eliot It is said that George Eliot’s style of writing deals with much realism. Eliot, herself meant by a “realist” to be “an artist who values the truth of observation above the imaginative fancies of writers of “romance” or fashionable melodramatic fiction.” (Ashton 19) This technique is artfully utilized in her writings in a way which human character and relationships are dissected and analyzed. In the novel The Mill on the Floss, Eliot uses the relationships of the protagonist of the story, Miss Maggie Tulliver, as a medium in which to convey various aspects of human social associations....   [tags: Mill Floss George Eliot Essays]

Powerful Essays
1829 words (5.2 pages)

Preludes - TS Eliot Essay

- Preludes - TS Eliot Relevant Background • Thomas Stearns [TS] Eliot was born in into a wealthy family in St Louis, Missouri, America in 1888 • He became a British citizen at the age of 39 in 1927. • His father was president of a brick making company. His mother wrote poetry and was once a teacher and social volunteer. They were determined to educate Thomas well. • TS Eliot's awareness of how differently some people lived inspired a lot of the descriptions found in ‘Preludes'. • Through the work of his mother and grandfather TS Eliot became aware of poverty and the boring reality of peoples' lives....   [tags: Poetry TS Eliot]

Powerful Essays
1919 words (5.5 pages)