‘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 ...view middle of the document...
The wasteland was a pioneering text during the Modernist era due to its originality in thought, that is, the way in which it was completely open to interpretation.
In Tony Davies and Nigel Wood’s book The Waste Land, Wood discusses the concept of tradition in modernism and averts the reader to Eliot’s relationship with Ezra Pound ‘whose motive was ‘the refreshment, revitalisation, and making new of literature in our own time.’ (pg 18) With the publication of The Waste Land and James Joyce’s Ulysses both emerging in 1922, the literary sphere after the First World War was blooming with influential masterpieces. Erik Svarny states that ‘after this date it was as if a cultural and historical for had expended itself: little was produced on a scale to match the achievements of the past.’ (pg 6 ‘The men of 1914’) Eliot began writing The Waste Land during his recovery after he suffered a breakdown; he later stated that the poem at large was “the relief of a personal and wholly insignificant grouse against life…just a piece of rhythmical grumbling.” (website journal)
However, I will discuss The Waste Land, with reference to the validity of Eliot’s ideas portrayed through his extensive use of symbolism and myth. Joyce also found ways to allow his individuality to be portrayed in his texts, which were heavily left open to interpretation. Although Joyce accepts Eliot’s perception of modern art, his originality is not wholly found within the ideas in his narrative like Eliot. Joyce completely broke free from the conventional forms of writing at the time; this demise of conventional writing dynamics shadowed the majority of works within the modernist period. In turn, I will discuss The Dubliners by Joyce, drawing upon his narrative alteration within the short stories in order to create his meanings within his narrative structure and influence from artists and authors.
Eliot’s epic, The Waste Land, connected to the lost generation of the time, seemingly making the poem timeless in itself, due to the arguable desensitization of our current generation. His collection of images and eclectic choice of work to imitate from provides the reader with a complex task of unravelling his symbolism. However, in Eliot’s essay ‘The Frontiers of Criticism’ he states that;
I had at first intended only to put down all the references for my quotations, with a view to spiking the guns of critics of my earlier poems who had accused me of plagiarism. Then when it came to print ‘The Waste Land’ as a little book… it was discovered that the poem was inconveniently short, so I set to work to expand the notes, in order to provide a few more pages of printed matter, with the result that they became the remarkable exposition of bogus scholarship that is still on view today.
Much of Eliot’s work was intended for enjoyment rather than an intricate dissection and thus from this statement it can be argued that the complexity of the poem need not be the issue at large. There is a sense of...