T.S. Eliot's War: The Waste Land Before and After
Course Online: Synchronous Format
In this class, we will explore in detail one of the most influential poems of the twentieth century. The Waste Land is undeniably a “war poem,” and it could not have been composed without the poet having witnessed, albeit at a remove, such a traumatic collective event. The trauma experienced by Eliot had also sexual and religious components. What is more, The Waste Land does not come alone, for the poem is also an entire archive as we see from its drafts and accompanying published and unpublished texts. We will study its textual genesis along with the historical contexts of the Waste Land, going back to the initial poem of Eliot’s modernity, “The Love Song of Alfred Prufrock.” Reading these texts, we will attempt to hear the layering of their voices, to capture the nuances of a rich cultural polyphony, while assessing the impact of philosophy on them. We will survey all these critical, literary, sexual and philosophical intertexts. If the Waste Land has remained one of the best examples of modernist classicism, what can this say both about “high modernism” and the future of poetry?
T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land: A Facsimile and Transcript of the Original Drafts, ed. V. Eliot, 1971.
T. S. Eliot, Inventions of the March Hare: Poems 1909-1917, ed. Christopher Ricks, 1996.
Gabrielle McIntire, ed, The Cambridge Companion to the Waste Land (2015).
Requirements: a film journal (5 pages, 25%), a short paper (5 pages, a close reading of a poetic passage, 25%) and a research paper (10 pages, 40%).
Class participation is expected (10%)
01/21 T. S. Eliot today: the return of Eliot.
01/26 Eliot’s youth and student years: Saint Louis and at Harvard.
01/28 Eliot in Paris.
02/2 Eliot and Symbolism.
02/4 French Eliot: Le Directeur, Mélange adultère de tout, Lune de Miel, Dans le Restaurant.
02/9 Eliot the philosopher: the dissertation on Bradley
02/11 Inventions of the March Hare (1) from “Conviction” (p. 11) to “Suppressed Complex” (p. 54).
02/16 Inventions of the March Hare (2) from “In the department store” (p. 56) to “In silent corridors of death” (p. 93).
02/18 Inventions of the March Hare (3), three appendices—bawdy poems and other poems.
02/23 The evolution of the “Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.” Film journal on Tom & Viv (1994) due.
02/25 Eliot and Vivien. Discussion of Tom & Viv (1994) directed by Brian Gilbert, based on the 1984 play by British playwright Michael Hastings.
The film stars Willem Dafoe as Eliot and Miranda Richardson as Vivien.
03/2 Eliot, Pound and Lewis: the London avant-garde and Blast.
03/4 Pound as editor of the manuscript of the Waste Land.
Pound’s annotations and the first version (facsimile)
03/9 “Gerontion” and other excluded poems.
03/16 The Waste Land and “tradition,” essays from The Sacred Wood.
03/18 The Waste Land, part 1: close reading.
03/23 The Waste Land, part 2: close reading.
03/25 The Waste Land, part 3: close reading.
02/30 The Waste Land and music. First paper due: close reading of one poem.
04/1 The Waste Land part 4 and 5: close reading.
04/6 The Waste Land and the Great War.
04/8 Religion and myth in The Waste Land.
04/13 Popular culture and The Waste Land.
04/15 Trauma and pathology in The Waste Land.
04/20 The Waste Land and Eliot’s later poetry (1).
04/22 The Waste Land and Eliot’s later poetry (2). Final paper abstract due.
04/27 The Waste Land’s modernist classicism. Final paper due.