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Echoes Inhabit the Garden: The Music of Poetry and Place in T.S. Eliot

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Echoes Inhabit the Garden: The Music of Poetry and Place in T.S. Eliot
Goldsmith, Bradford Owen
This paper proposes a close reading of T.S. Eliot’s poetry, drama, and criticism as an examination of the way his complex orientation to place was reflected in his critical writings and his process of poetic composition. It aims to situate him in recent critical debates in modernist studies regarding local, national, and transnational formations of culture and poetry, but concentrates the majority of its focus within Eliot’s work. It intends to mark the convergence of linguistic concerns and engagement with place within Eliot’s work, particularly in terms of figurative language using ground, soil, gardens, voice, and music in which place and orientation of poetic voice converge. This paper will outline the consistencies and mutations of these images across his career in relation to his own sense of cultural location and footing as he moves from urban street poetry of America, to his early engagement with England through The Waste Land, to his shift to the countryside and the rose-garden of Four Quartets. The central idea of this perspective is that Eliot’s compositional process of forming a poetic voice depended on his sense of orientation in both place and language, and that his process was intimately concerned with the role of this grounding of voice as a function of his poetics, as a medium itself, at work in both geographical and linguistic cultural environments. The thesis is that as Eliot’s sense of stability in poetic placement and grounding within linguistic and cultural mediums increases, augmented by his use of figurative music and the order created by his own poetry, the qualities of voice and vocal structure in his poems gains solidity and coherence toward the end of his career. This process is mirrored by the development of garden imagery across his career. This approach will take into account shifts in poetic form and vocal structure as Eliot moves from an incoherent American perspective, to that of a transatlantic metoikos or resident alien, to his central position in English letters. It also positions this progression alongside Eliot’s development of a social and religious perspective oriented toward international universalism grounded in the particularity of local culture and regionalism.
Hena, Omaar (committee chair)
Holdridge, Jefferson (committee member)
Wilson, Eric G. (committee member)
2018-05-24T08:36:05Z (accessioned)
2023-06-01T08:30:24Z (available)
2018 (issued)
English (discipline)
2023-06-01 (terms)
http://hdl.handle.net/10339/90716 (uri)
en (iso)
Wake Forest University

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