, T.S. Eliot appeared on the scene of 20th century English poetry as a wonderful innovator with these lines of his The Love-song of J. Alfred Prufrock on the pages of the Poetry magazine in 1915: “Let us go, then, you and I
When the evening is spread out against the sky
Like a patient etherized upon a table".
These lines immediately revolutionized the intellectual climate of English poetry. Eliot initiated a new brand of poetry of the city, poetry essentially cerebral, impersonal, predominantly imagistic, insistently urbane & ironic, characteristically observational. Eliot's modernity(or should it be called 'Modernism'?) can be understood with reference to the following: a) His theory of impersonality;
b) His observations on the monotony, aridity, squalor of the big cities: the boredom and the horror; c) The revival of the Metaphysical tradition of wit, allusion, conceit, colloquialism, ironic banter etc; d) His conscious artistry of imagery and tone.
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
The poem follows the conscious experience of a man, Prufrock (relayed in the "stream of consciousness" form characteristic of the Modernists), lamenting his physical and intellectual inertia, the lost opportunities in his life and lack of spiritual progress, with the recurrent theme of carnal love unattained. Critical opinion is divided as to whether the narrator leaves his residence during the course of the narration. The locations described can be interpreted either as actual physical experiences, mental recollections, or as symbolic images from the unconscious mind, as, for example, in the refrain "In the room the women come and go".
World War I and after
The outbreak of World War I represented a setback for the budding modernist movement for a number of reasons: firstly, writers like Aldington found themselves in active service; secondly, paper shortages and related factors meant that publication of new work became increasingly difficult; and, thirdly, public sentiment in time of war meant that war poets such as Wilfred Owen, who wrote more conventional verse, became increasingly popular. One poet who served in the war, the visual artist David Jones, later resisted this trend in his long experimental war poem "In Parenthesis", which was written directly out of his trench experiences but was not published until 1937. The war also tended to undermine the optimism of the Imagists. This was reflected in a number of major poems written in its aftermath. The addition of notes to the published poem served to highlight the use of collage as a literary technique, paralleling similar practice by the cubists and other visual artists. From this point on, modernism in English tended towards a poetry of the fragment that rejected the idea that the poet could present a comfortingly coherent view of life. T. S. Eliot's "The Waste Land" is a foundational text of modernism, representing the moment at which Imagism moves into modernism proper. Broken, fragmented and seemingly unrelated slices of imagery come together to form a disjunctive anti-narrative. The motif of sight and vision is as central to the poem as it is to modernism; the omni-present character Tiresias acting as a unifying theme. The reader is thrown into confusion, unable to see anything but a heap of broken images. T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) is synonymous with modernism. Everything about his poetry bespeaks high modernism: its use of myth to undergird and order atomized modern experience; its collage-like juxtaposition of different voices, traditions, and discourses; and its focus on form as the carrier of meaning. . . . . .
T.S. Eliot: Pioneer of Modernism
Eliot (1888-1965), better known as T.S. Eliot, was an American-English poet, playwright, editor, literary critic, and a leader of the modernist movement in literature.
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