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Updated Up To 18/01/2017
Volume 3, Number 2 (June 2005) : 125--151
Dialectic and Impersonality in T. S. Eliot

Jewel Spears Brooker
Rubric A: Literature and Ideology

Abstract

 

In “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” T. S. Eliot argues that the greatest art is impersonal. His position is undermined by subsequent statements on art as an expression of personality and by his own richly “personal” poetry. This article explores the pattern behind Eliot’s concept of impersonality and its philosophical grounding in his graduate studies in philosophy, arguing that he accepts the simultaneous existence of opposites and sees them as resolved in a dialectical process that at once includes and transcends contraries. The details of this dialectical process vary from artist to artist. Eliot identifies four variations: two in the “Tradition” essay and two in the 1940 memorial lecture on Yeats. The present essay illustrates these variations from the work of four writers Eliot admired – Pound, Joyce, Conrad, and Yeats.


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