T.S. Elliot & the Mallarmean Quest for Meaning
By Ake Strandberg
Uppsala University Press
188 pages, 6" x 8 1/2"
$46.50 Paper Original
This study situates the work of T.S. Eliot in the context of what some critics have called an "Orphic tradition" in Western Literature. This can be described as a mythopoetic heritage emanating from the Orphic mystery cults of ancient Greece, and from texts by early thinkers such as Plato and Heraclitus. The initial idea behind this historical perspective is to identify certain common denominators in Eliot and a few other poets associated with this literary tradition, particularly the French symbolists and Stephane Mallarme. Thus, this symbolist "mallarmean" element in Eliot's work is here viewed as a manifestation of ancient poetic ideals emerging from the oral and semi-literate cultures of the classical world. Eliot's artistic development is consequently interpreted as a "mallarmean quest for meaning" which can be defined not only as a quest for the origin and function of language - reflecting the discussion in Plato's Cratylus - but also as a search for an "Orphic voice," a primaeval source of poetic expression from a transcendental world of ideas. The Orphic voice, then, represents the vision of a language of divine qualities: a poetic language which can reveal the true nature of the physical universe, give us insight into the dim recesses of our souls and guide us towards spiritual elevation and enlightenment. This study endeavors to show how these various poetic ideals find expression in T.S. Eliot's work, from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" to the Four Quartets.
Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis Studia Anglistica Upsaliensia No. 122
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