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The Waste Land:

With the publication in 1922 of his poem The Waste Land, Eliot won an international reputation. The Waste
Land expresses with great power the disenchantment, disillusionment, and disgust of the period after World
War I. In a series of vignettes (a short descriptive literary sketch), loosely linked by the legend of the search
for the Grail, it portrays a sterile world of human beings waiting for some sign or promise of redemption.
The poem’s style is highly complex, erudite, and allusive, and the poet provided notes and references to
explain the work’s many quotations and allusions.


• It is an anthology of indeterminate states of the mind, hallucinations, impressions, personalities

blended and superimposed beyond the boundaries of time and place.

• The speaking voice is related to various personalities: Tiresias, a knight from the Grail legend, the
Fisher King
(The Fisher King appears first in French literature (late 12th-century), but the character's roots may lie
in Celtic mythology. In Arthurian legend, the Fisher King, or the Wounded King, is the latest in a long
line charged with keeping the Holy Grail).


• The disillusionment and disgust of the period after World War I.

• Contrast between past fertility and present sterility.

• The mythical past linked to a new concept of History à repetition of the same events.

• Spring Symbols: different from Chaucer à absence of rebirth.

April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
(I section)

• Association of ideas à past and present are simultaneous.

• Mythical method à to give significance to present futility.

• Subjective experiences made universal.

• Use of Juxtaposition.

• Quotations from different languages and literary works.


• Technique of implication: the active participation of the reader is required.

• Objective correlative.

• Repetition of words, images and phrases.

The objective correlative: T. S. Eliot and Montale

Meriggiare pallido e assorto (“Ossi di Seppia”) What The Thunder said

Meriggiare pallido e assorto Here is no water but only rock

presso un rovente muro d’orto, Rock and no water and the sandy road
ascoltare tra i pruni e gli sterpi The road winding above among the mountains
schiocchi di merli, frusci di serpi. Which are mountains of rock without water.

 Both Eliot and Montale depict a desolate landscape.

 They both refer to a waste land of the spirit.

 This landscape is cosmopolitan in Eliot.

 It is a domestic landscape in Montale.

The objective correlative: T. S. Eliot and Montale

Objective correlative: attempt at communicating philosophical reflections and feelings by

means of a simile, a description or a monologue by a character in order to provide the vision
of the world / feeling of the lyrical “I”

The term was introduced by T.S.Eliot into his essay "Hamlet and His Problems" (1919).

The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an "objective correlative"; in other
“ words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion;
such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is
immediately evoked.

Eliot was descended from a distinguished New England family that had relocated to St. Louis, Missouri. His
family allowed him the widest education available in his time, with no influence from his father to be
“practical” and to go into business. From Smith Academy in St. Louis he entered Harvard in 1906; he
received a B.A. in 1909, after three instead of the usual four years.

He spent the year 1910–11 in France, attending Henri Bergson’s lectures in philosophy at the Sorbonne and
reading poetry with Alain-Fournier. Eliot’s study of the poetry of Dante, of the English writers John Webster
and John Donne, and of the French Symbolist Jules Laforgue helped him to find his own style. From 1911 to
1914 he was back at Harvard reading Indian philosophy and studying Sanskrit. In 1914 Eliot met and began
a close association with the American poet Ezra Pound.

(Ezra Pound: American poet and critic who did more than any other single figure to advance a “modern”
movement in English and American Literature. Pound promoted, and also occasionally helped shape, the
work of such widely different poets and novelists as W.B.Yeats James Joyce, Ernest Hemingway, D.H.
Lawrence, and T.S. Eliot. His pro-Fascist broadcasts in Italy during WWII led to his postwar arrest and
confinement until 1958 – treason)

Before the conversion

1917: Prufrock and other Observations.

1922: The Waste Land. It is said to be “the single most influential poetic work of the twentieth century”.

1925: The Hollow Men.

After the conversion

1927: Ariel Poems.

1930: Ash-Wednesday.

1935-1942: Four Quartets.

1935: Murder in the Cathedral. (play)

1939: Family Reunion (play)


IMDb Midnight in Paris (2011) - Quotes - IMDb

Ernest Hemingway: No subject is terrible if the story is true, if the prose is clean and honest, and if
it affirms courage and grace under pressure.

Gertrude Stein: The artist's job is not to succumb to despair but to find an antidote for the
emptiness of existence.

T.S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” : when Prufrock says that he has measured
out his life with coffee spoons, he’s admitting that his life has been mundane and repetitious.

In Woody Allen’s movie Midnight in Paris, T.S. Eliot (played by David Lowe) is among the literary
luminaries whom screenwriter Gil (Owen Wilson) meets in his midnight sojourns into the 1920s.
Gil tells Eliot that Prufrock is his “mantra,” but wryly comments, “May I tell you where I come
from they measure out their lives in coke spoons”