The World of Eliot’s Waste Land

Topics: Poetry, Ezra Pound, The Waste Land Pages: 2 (548 words) Published: January 5, 2014
In his 1923 essay “Ulysses, Order and Myth,” T. S. Eliot predicated that rather than the narrative style of poetry popularized by poets of the Romantic era, poets of the twentieth-century would instead employ James Joyce’s “mythical method,” a technique characteristic of heavy mythological, historical, and literary allusions used to create a “continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity” (177). Doing so allowed a poem to reach a new universal level of significance regardless of era, much like that of the mythic heroes of Greece and Medieval Europe. More importantly, Eliot noted that making use of the mythical method allowed art to be possible in the epistemologically unstable modern world. Indeed, with the development of modernism came dramatic shifts in the aesthetic paradigm for both visual and literary artists; similar to the new aesthetic schools of cubism, futurism, and surrealism inspired by redefinitions of time and space by scientists and philosophers of the twentieth-century, Eliot argued that the mythical method provided poets with a technique to reconcile present ideas with older linear conceptions of narrative poetry. Specifically, according to Eliot, the poet gained a perspective that offered a new way of “controlling, of giving a shape and significance to the panorama of anarchy which is contemporary history” (178). Many critics, such as Jay Martin, have argued that Eliot’s modernist poem “The Waste Land” correspondingly seeks to order the chaotic modern world; in particular with its substantial use of historical and literal references, the mythical method offers Eliot a satirical lens to perceive and give new meaning to the present (65). Critics have also argued, however, that the poem’s repeated allusions to fertility myth represent Eliot’s call for religious revival in Europe. Notably, D. C. Fowler contends that the poem’s ending represents “restoration” of the Fisher King’s waste land; to him, the Indian words given at the end of...
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