Thomas Stearns Eliot, a man of two continents, playwright, editor, literary critic, bank employee, and a great leader of the Modernist movement in poetry, was born on September 26, 1888, in St. Louis, Missouri, US. He practiced a wide influence on Anglo-American culture and his name, along with the most important 20th-century writers such as Virginia Woolf and James Joyce, has come to define British modernist fiction.
Modernist movement is "a rejection of traditional 19th-century norms, whereby artists, architects, poets, and thinkers either altered or abandoned earlier conventions in an attempt to re-envision a society in flux".
Eliot's essays not only in style, diction, and versemaking resurrected English poetry but also his critical essays shattered old orthodoxies and erected new ones. With the publication of Four Quartets that led him to recognize as the man of letters, and the greatest living English poet. In 1948, he was awarded both the 'Nobel Prize' and the 'Order of Merit' for Literature.
Eliot's writings deal with manifold themes. Among them, the damaged psyche of humanity, the power of literary history, and the changing nature of gender roles are prominent. Like many Modernist writers, he wished to show the 20th-century psychological state of humanity through poetry. He illustrated the traumata of World War I and the Victorian ideals which challenged the cultural notions and desired to change the world through verse. He saw the world as paralyzed and wounded and aimed to capture the transformed world through poetry.
Eliot preserved great esteem for the Western literary custom and myth. He wrapped his work full of motions, quotations, and wisely explanations. The Tradition and the Individual Talent is an essay that was first published in 1919 where he glorifies the literary tradition and states that the best writers are those who write with a sense of regularity. He again asserted that the literary past must be fused into contemporary poetry.
Over the course of Eliot's life, we found that there were some issues like gender roles and sexuality became increasingly flexible and which was reflected through his works. The conditions of the women in the Victorian Era of the 19th century were confined to the domestic sphere. There was no sexual equality between men and women, and sexuality was not discussed or publicly explored at that time. Gay and lesbian characters were created by the Modernist writers and re-imagined masculinity and femininity as characteristics.
Eliot is best known for his poetry collections such as Prufrock and Other Observations (1917), The Waste Land (1922), The Hollow Men (1925), Four Quartets (1943), and many more. His famous plays are The Rock (1934), Murder in the Cathedral (1935), The Family Reunion (1939), and The Cocktail Party (1949). Besides poetry and plays, his renowned nonfictions are Christianity and Culture (1939, 1948) and The second-Order Mind (1920).
The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock is considered one of the famous modernist poems where Eliot used the stream-of-consciousness technique. The poem tells about the problem of a man, Prufrock, who is mentally disintegrated and unstable. He is a lonely and pessimistic guy who laments his physical and intellectual shortcomings, the lack of spiritual progress, and the lack of opportunities in his life. Death is also a dominant figure in the poem that is also personified as "the eternal Footman". In the poem, Prufrock is a character who represents all modern men and all the negative aspects of modern life are also presented in the poem.
The Waste Land is also a masterpiece of modernist poems where Eliot demonstrates his discomfort of modern life and the difference between the fall in spiritual matters in modern life and the divinely religious medieval life. This poem is calculated as a fundamental modernist text. It shows many fragmented images and the modern world which the narrator terms as "the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history". Life is presented as trivial and modern men are suffering both the inner psychological level and the real physical level because of war.
T. S. Eliot, a Nobel laureate, became a British citizen in 1927 and at the age of 76, he died in London on January 4, 1965, due to emphysema.
Md. Jubel Miah, BA (Hon's) in English, MC College, Sylhet. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
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