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Words without End: The Development of T. S. Eliot's Poetics from "The Waste Land" to "Four Quartets"

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abstract
In Real Presences George Steiner provocatively claims: "It is this break of the covenant between word and world which constitutes one of the very few genuine revolutions of spirit in Western history and which defines modernity itself." As the "high modernist" poet par excellence, I propose to read both of T. S. Eliot's long poems as distinct responses to the similar recognition of a "break of the covenant between word and world." The Waste Land stares into the void of non-reference in despair. The poem polarizes a problematic multitude of voices (i.e. Babel) and the hoped-for single, divine voice of the Thunder. By contrast, Four Quartets not only admits but actively perpetrates linguistic slippage and non-reference. It thereby progresses by way of a poetics of renunciation that resists competing modes of knowledge, including rationality, experience, and the autonomous text. Instead of hoping in the recovery of a divine voice or sound, the poem places its hope in the possibility of dialogue through which the presence of a divine person is intuited.
subject
absence
nothing
presence
renunciation
T. S. Eliot
contributor
Vanhoozer, Emma Clare (author)
Kuberski, Philip (committee chair)
Wilson, Eric (committee member)
Rapaport, Herman (committee member)
date
2011-07-14T20:35:59Z (accessioned)
2011-07-14T20:35:59Z (available)
2011 (issued)
degree
English (discipline)
identifier
http://hdl.handle.net/10339/33476 (uri)
language
en (iso)
publisher
Wake Forest University
title
Words without End: The Development of T. S. Eliot's Poetics from "The Waste Land" to "Four Quartets"
type
Thesis

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