Interpretation of Culture

Topics: Culture, T. S. Eliot, Matthew Arnold Pages: 6 (2231 words) Published: December 4, 2012
J. Basic. Appl. Sci. Res., 1(12)2823-2825, 2011 © 2011, TextRoad Publication

ISSN 2090-4304 Journal of Basic and Applied Scientific Research

T.S. Eliot’s Interpretation of Culture
Hamedreza Kohzadi , Fatemeh Azizmohammadi
1, 2 1 2 1 2

Department of English Literature, Arak Branch, Islamic Azad University, Arak, Iran E-mails: hamedreza_,

ABSTRACT It is an accepted fact that Eliot's concept of culture was for the most part derived from Ezra Pound's Guide to Kulchur. Butthe origins of the philosophical formulations of the term culture are traceable in his earlier work. The idea of a Christian Society (1939) which preceded the publication of his Notes towards the Definition of Culture (1948) by almost a decade. He maintains in the idea that liberalism would in course of time be replaced naturally by a positive Christian conception of society. In any society the larger number lead lives that are "spiritual" only in the sense they follow unconsciously the habits and forms of life enjoined upon the "religious" Christians. A life in which the behavior pattern is determined in the unquestioned acceptance of the "faith" is recommended; but even better would be the life in which the people feel or realize for themselves the inadequacy of their life as they lead it in practical contexts to the levels of idealism they are expected to reach as set forth by their religion. KEYWORDS: Eliot, Culture, Religion, Christianity, Theology. INTRODUCTION For Eliot, religion is Christianity. In other words, a life of conformity to Christian religious ideals is Eliot's precondition for culture. Eliot envisages a stratified society in which the upper layer of citizens who believe in traditional Christianity will activate and determine the behavior patterns of the lower classes; in the long run, dynamics of such a give and take will pave the way for culture and its ongrowth. Eliot's avowed aim in his Notes is to define the word culture. For him (1948:27,31): Culture may even be described simply as that which makes life worth living....It includes all the characteristic activities and interests of a people: Derby Day, Henley Regatta, Cowes, the twelfth of August, a cup final, the dog races, the pin table, the dart board, Wensleydale cheese, boiled cabbage cut into sections, beetroot in vinegar, nineteenth-century Gothic churches and the music of Elgar. To start with, Eliot uses the term culture in three different senses: in the sense of the development of an individual, a class, or a whole society. Matthew Arnold's Culture and Anarchy (1925), for instance, concerns itself with the first sense of the term, where culture is a growth toward perfection or the attainment of perfection of an individual so that he may rise above the class to which he belongs. In fact Eliot quarrels with Arnold for such a limited perception of culture without reference to the conditioning background of the class or society. Again Arnold is much too vague in his appeal to perfection -perfection in what area? Even in the individual's attainment of culture. There are different areas such as philosophy, learning, arts, music, etc. But a wholly cultured individual is an unrealizable ideal and so Eliot says that culture has to be seen as the relation of an individual to a larger social background. "We only mean that the culture of an individual cannot be isolated from that of the group and that the culture of the group cannot be abstracted from that of the whole society" (Eliot 1948:24). T.S. Eliot and Culture Eliot firmly asserts that "no culture can appear or develop except in relation to religion" (ibidem:27). The term relation is quite central to Eliot's assertion. He does not mean it in Arnold's sense where religion merely serves as the base for the growth of the superstructure of culture. For Eliot, culture "is the incarnation (so to speak) of the religion

*Corresponding Author: Hamedreza...
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