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Eliot's vision of life.

Eliot's vision of life.

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This essay provides an reading of The Love Song of Alfred J Prufrock and The Waste Land and explores the use of the Tarot in these poems. It also posits that if a common trope of Modernism was to illustrate tha tman is an alienated subject, then in some respects Eliot can be classified as anti-Modernist.
This essay provides an reading of The Love Song of Alfred J Prufrock and The Waste Land and explores the use of the Tarot in these poems. It also posits that if a common trope of Modernism was to illustrate tha tman is an alienated subject, then in some respects Eliot can be classified as anti-Modernist.

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Published by: Undergraduate Awards on Sep 01, 2012
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10/27/2013

 
Title: Outline the vision of life portrayed in Eliot’s poetry and discuss howthis portrayal is created. Name: Michelle CooneyStudent number: M0626457Programme: B.A.Module Code: EH4717Department: English Language and LiteratureSupervisor: Dr. Kathleen O'Dwyer Declaration: I declare that this essay is all my own work and that I haveacknowledged and referenced all sources of information I haveused in the essaySigned:_____________________________
 
It is generally agreed among critics that literary modernism emerged in part as aresponse to the collective cultural crises of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Amongthese crises were: post-war social disintegration, man's alienation in an increasinglyurbanised world and the ephemeral and changeable nature of the human subject in an erawhere the traditional stability of religion was beginning to fail. Within these socialconditions literature became an 'almost intolerable questioning of every previously heldcultural assumption' (Eagleton, 1996, p26). One poet at the forefront of these questioningtimes was T.S. Eliot and he offers us a precise vision of life through his poetry. In particular, this vision is developed in his poems The Love Song of Alfred J Prufrock 
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andThe Waste Land. These poems can be seen to embody a number of key tenets of themodernist discourse: the inability of language to articulate and/or communicate meaning,and the fragmentation of the self, yet both of these are underpinned by a metonymic journey of time motif which paradoxically implies a uniting link for all human beings.Both Prufrock and The Waste Land deal with the inadequacy of language toexpress a subjective and personal reality. The Prufrock lines of: 'Oh do not ask' (Norton,2006, p2290)
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, 'that is not what I meant at all'(p2292) and 'it is impossible to say just whatI mean' (p2292) illustrate the speaker's, almost Wittgenstein-ean, frustration at the failureof the medium of language to articulate the deepest desires. Echoing this is the voice of the hysterical woman in The Waste Land: 'I never know what you are thinking'(p2299). Itis the unspoken and the impossibility of articulating the unspoken that serves to illustratethe restrictions intrinsically bound by the medium of articulation: language. Eliot can beseen, by these examples, to hold to the basic tenet of Mallarmé: to create a language of 
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This will be abbreviated to Prufrock for the remainder of this essay.
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All quotes from Prufrock and The Waste Land are taken from this edition.
 
absence rather than of presence.
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However, Eliot's Prufrock also seems to suggest thatthere is an element of communication that
is
capable of conveying an exact meaning: itsability to 'fix you in a formulated phrase'(p2291).
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 This language, if it can be called that, is not however, spoken. It is the language of the 'eyes'(p2291), the pre-articulated thoughts that Prufrock fears so much. Setting out toexplore this dichotomy between the pre-linguistic thoughts and spoken phrases is one of the key things that Eliot, in his poetry, sets out to do, and in doing so begins to critiqueSaussure's semiotic structure of language, and question its ability to facilitatecommunication: ' Signs are taken for words. "We would see a sign". The word within aword, unable to speak a word' (Eliot, 1940, p15)
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.Eliot also seems to be arguing that thespoken language is rationally unable to express what is felt empirically, that spokenlanguage becomes the ability to merely 'murder and create' (p2290). This is demonstratedin Prufrock through the use of an almost Jack the Ripper-like feeling which pervades thetone of the entire poem. What articulated language murders then, is any reasonable hopefor communication of feelings, either to one another or between the diverse personas thateach of us carries within us. It is to this very fragmentation of self that the theme of TheWaste Land turns.If Prufrock is seen as Eliot's treatment of the failure of language in the microcosmof the subjective individual, then The Waste Land marks his attempt to expand his ideasto the macrocosm: universalising his theories. In The Waste Land he explores themultiplicity of the modern consciousness: the 'you' and 'I' of Prufrock become the
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For more on Mallarmé and the contingency of language see: An anatomy of poesis: The prose poems of Stephane Mallarmé: See bibliography list.
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( Similar to Elizabeth Bowen, The Last September, where Lois was reluctant to be 'clapped down' by anadjective, p60)
 
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This line is taken from Gerontion, first published in 1920.

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