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• The Essay, "Tradition And Individual Talent" Is A Manifesto Of Eliot’s Critical Creed

1163 words - 5 pages

The essay, "Tradition and Individual Talent" is a manifesto of Eliot's critical creed. Do you agree? What are the critical principles enunciated therein.Eliot's essay Tradition and Individual Talent (First published in 1919 in the Times Literary Supplement) is an unofficial manifesto of Eliot's critical creed, for it contains all those critical principles from which criticism has been derived ever since. Eliot is of the opinion that the writer must have faith in some system of writing and that a work of art must conform to the past tradition. According to him, a work of art must conform to tradition in such a way that it alters the tradition as much as it is directed by it. According to Eliot's conception tradition and the individual talent go together.Tradition is the gift of the historic sense. A writer with this sense of tradition is fully conscious of his own generation, of his place in the present-, but he is also acutely conscious of his relationship with the writers of the past. The historical sense involves a perception, "not only of the pastness of the past, but also of its presence. One who has the historic sense feels that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer down to his own day, including the literature of his own country, forms one continuous literary tradition."In brief, the sense of tradition implies (a) a recognition of the continuity of literature, (b) a critical judgement as to which of the writers of the past continue to be significant in the present, and (c) a knowledge of these significant writers obtained through painstaking effort. Tradition represent the accumulated wisdom and experience of ages, and so its knowledge is essential for really great and noble achievements.In After Strange Gods, Eliot defines tradition in the following manner: "Trad4tioir is not solely, or even primarily, the maintenance of certain dogmatic beliefs, these beliefs have come to take their living form in the course of the formation of a tradition. What I mean by tradition involves all those habitual actions, habits, and customs, from the most significant religious rites to our conventional way of greeting a stranger, which represent the blood kinship of the same people living in the same place." Tradition, he says, is "the means by which the vitality of the past enriches the life of the present."The work of a poet in the present is to be compared and contrasted with works of the past, and judged by the standards of the past. But this judgement does not mean determining good or bad. It does not mean deciding whether the present work is better or worse than works of the past. An author in the present is certainly not to be judged by the principles and the standards of the past. The comparison is to be made for knowing the facts, all the facts, about the new work of art. The comparison is made for the purpose of analysis, and for forming a better understanding of the new. Moreover, this comparison is reciprocal. The past helps us to...

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