Wednesday, 15 February 2012

T.S. Eliot's 'The Waste Land': despair and conversion

From Ignatius Insight comes this link to an article in the always readable St Austin Review by Paula A. Gallagher, giving a different interpretation to the usual critical treatment of 'The Waste Land.'  Her thesis is that far from being just the apogee of modernist despair, the poem also significantly prefigures his conversion to Anglo-Catholicism:

"A few famous poems of the modern age critique the state of modernity—its sterility, its emptiness, its rejection of culture and tradition. One of the most influential of these poems is T. S. Eliot’s “The Waste Land,” which was first published in England in 1922, about six years before Eliot’s conversion to Anglo-Catholicism. Despite the distance between these two events, “The Waste Land” does contain imagery, allusions and ideas that prefigure his conversion.
The beginning of Eliot’s conversion, as prefigured in the poem, begins with his recognition of the emptiness of modernity. The fact that Eliot is writing this poem
about the barrenness of modernity and imaging it as a Waste Land shows that Eliot sees through modernity to the reality of its sterility. The image of the Waste Land represents the aridity of modernity, its lack of culture and tradition, and indeed its inability to allow culture and tradition to grow and flourish..."
Read the whole article and judge for yourselves.... What seems beyond doubt is that far from simply stating that human existence is meaningless and we have to live with that, he was already beginning to explore the possibility of meaning in the Christian tradition of faith.

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