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T.S. Eliot's War: The Waste Land Before and After

ENGL 059.401
crosslisted as: COML 059
instructor(s):
TR 12-1:30pm

Course Online: Synchronous Format

fulfills requirements:
Sector 1: Theory and Poetics of the Standard Major
Sector 6: 20th Century Literature of the Standard Major

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does not come alone, for the poem is also an entire archive as we see from its drafts and accompanying published and unpublished texts.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?