Today I’m publishing the fifth and final installment on our Lockdown T.S.Eliot Book Club. Donor Subscribers can go here for this post which gives more info on The Waste Land and pointers and links to articles explaining the rest of Eliot’s work.
Here’s an excerpt:
Eliot’s poetry has often been categorized in three sections which parallels the great masterpiece of his mentor Dante. His early poems are like The Inferno. The poems after his conversion and baptism are like Purgatory and his final masterpiece- The Four Quartets is like Paradise. I have written about this here. This basic outline will assist you in understanding a pattern to Eliot’s whole body of work. I should stress that this pattern is imposed on the work by his critics and fans. The progress from Hell to Purgatory and Paradise was probably not intentional on Eliot’s part.
You have read the early poems and The Waste Land and you will have picked up that this is written from the hell of Eliot’s marriage and the hell of wartime London. Early drafts of the poem have survived and critics have shown that the poem originally had much more Christian (and hopeful) content. Eliot was encouraged to cut most of this by Ezra Pound (who was an atheist). The result is a poem that is probably much more pessimistic and dark than Eliot originally intended.
I encourage you to read the Waste Land again, but this time use this online version. It is brilliant because when you run your cursor over the text certain lines will turn blue. Click on the highlighted lines and you will be given an explanation of all the difficult and obscure references, the literary allusions and you will be given translations of the foreign phrases and quotations. Reading through The Waste Land with these annotations will make most things clear. Go here for the online version with built in notes.
To read all the posts from the Book Club go to the “Inklings and Friends” channel in the Archived Articles section of the blog. To learn more about becoming a Donor Subscriber and gaining access to all the content on the blog go here.
I wanted the T.S.Eliot Book Club to continue on a bit longer, but other projects are beckoning. Next week I hope to begin (at long last) my video channel. It will be called, Myths, Monsters and the Mysteries. I’ve also got a backlog of podcasts to make and publish as well as getting the word out about my new book Immortal Combat-Confronting the Heart of Darkness-–and several long term writing projects.
Go here to read the latest Eliot post.