Eliot, Thomas Stearns


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Eliot, Thomas Stearns

 

Born Sept. 26, 1888, in St. Louis; died Jan. 4, 1965, in London. British-American poet and critic.

Eliot graduated from Harvard University in 1910. In 1927 he became a British citizen. His early collections are characterized by sketches of bourgeois society that use elements of the grotesque and tragic poems about the destruction of individual personality in the maelstrom of the indifferent city. The sense of spiritual impasse intensifies in the narrative poem The Waste Land (1922), whose theme is the exhaustion of the creative energy of mankind. With the cycle The Hollow Men (1925), Eliot became famous as the poet of the despair born of World War I (seeLOST GENERATION).

Eliot uncompromisingly rejected bourgeois civilization. He gradually came to preach Christian ethical norms in such works as Ash Wednesday (1930), and he called for a return to a supposed social harmony based on monarchism. Royalism and religiosity underlay his conservative attitudes in the 1930’s.

In his late poetry, including Four Quartets (1943), Eliot treated metaphysically the themes of death and immortality, the meaning of life, and the spiritual continuity of generations. The idea that fate is predetermined and that true freedom presupposes submission to a superpersonal will lies at the basis of Eliot’s dramas in verse, including Murder in the Cathedral (1935).

In opposition to the principle of creative individuality and freedom, Eliot as a literary theorist advanced the “classical principle,” that is, the subordination of the personal to the super-individual and the careful taking into account of literary tradition. Eliot’s interpretation diminishes the significance of Milton, Byron, and other adherents of the “romantic” philosophy of the arts and minimizes the Renaissance character of the legacy of Shakespeare. However, several theses of Eliot’s aesthetics, such as the idea of the integrity of the literary process throughout the centuries and the demand for artistic objectivity, have played a positive role in the development of poetry written in English. Eliot received a Nobel Prize in 1948.

WORKS

Complete Poems and Plays. London, 1969.
In Russian translation:
Besplodnaia zemlia. Moscow, 1971.

REFERENCES

Zasurskii, Ia. N. Amerikanskaia literatura XX v. Moscow, 1966.
Ivasheva, V. V. Angliiskaia literatura XXv. Moscow, 1967.

A. M. ZVEREV