• T. S. Eliot

    Tradition and the individual talent

    Thomas Steams Eliot: 20th cent. Angle-American poet and critic. He belongs to the New Critical Formalist literary theory, and is ” classicist in nature, royalist in politics, and Anglo-Catholic in religion.” (1089)

    “Objective Correlative”: ” The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding an ‘objective correlative’; in other words, a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked.” (1090)

    The Waste Land: Eliot’s “ Epic of decay “. it manifests Eliot’s formalist theory as expressed in “ tradition and the individual talent  through the usage of techniques such as allusions, imagery, and experimentations with style.

    Tradition and the Individual Talent; An essay in which Eliot defines tradition, art, and the artist, and how they are connected.

    A. “No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone.” (1093)

    1- ” The most individual parts of his work may be those in which dead poets, his ancestors, assert their immortality’ most vigorously. “(1093)

      2- “ The historical sense, which we may call nearly indispensable … involves a perception, not only of the pastiness of the past, but of its presence.” (1093)

    B. ” Novelty is better than repetition.”(1093)

    1- Tradition is not “following the ways of the immediate generation before us in a blind or timid adherence to its successes.” (1093)

    2- If the work of art merely conformed without adding anything, then “it would not be new, and would therefore not be a work of art “. (1093)

    3- ” It will even be affirmed that much learning deadens or prevents poetic sensibility.” (1094)

    C. “The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them.” (1093)

    1- “This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal… is what makes a writer traditional.” (1093)

    2- “The past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past.” (1093)

    3- He must be quite aware of the obvious fact that art never improves, but that the material of art is never quite the same.” (1094)

    4- ” The difference between the present and the past is that the conscious present is an awareness of the past in a way and to an extent, which the past’s awareness of cannot show.” (1094)

    5- Tradition is a ‘simultaneous order’ (l 093), ‘a living whole’ (l 095), and the ‘mind of Europe ’. (1094)

    D. Eliot “Define [s the] process of depersonalization and its relation to the sense of tradition. It is in this depersonalization that art may be said to approach the condition of science.” (1094)

    1- ” What happens is a continual surrender of himself as he is at the moment to something which is more valuable. The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality.” (1094)

    2- ” Honest criticism and sensitive appreciation is directed not upon the poet but upon the poetry.” (1095)

    3- ” The mind of the mature poet differs from that of the immature one by being a more finely perfected medium in which special, or very varied, feelings are at liberty to enter into new combinations.” (1095)

    This is elaborated by the analogy of the catalyst:

    Oxygen + Sulphur dioxide                â                    sulphurous acid

    (Platinum catalyst)

    feelings + images + phrases                       â                                art


    Why are the catalyst and the artist similar?

    Transforming agent“an expression of significant emotion”
    Not present in the product“has its life in the poem and not in the history of the poet”
    Neutral” The emotion of art is impersonal.” (1095)

    E. “It is not the ‘greatness’, the intensity, of the emotions, the components, but the intensity of the artistic process, the pressure, so to speak, under which the fusion takes place, that counts.” (1096)

    1- “There are many people who appreciate the expression of sincere emotion in verse, and there is a smaller number of people who can appreciate technical excellence.” (1098)

    F. “The business of the poet is not to find new emotions, but to use the ordinary ones and in working them up into poetry, to express feelings which are not in actual emotions at all.” (1097

    Emotions VS. Feelings:

    Emotions: Are associated with experience / events in one’s personal life.

    Feelings: Are vaguer, more floating impressions and images that are somehow less personal and more aesthetic.

    RomanticsNew Critics
    ” Emotions “” Not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion.”
    “Recollected”” They finally unite.”
    ” in tranquility”“Concentration which does not happen consciously or of deliberation.” (1097)

    Prepared by:

    Shaymaa Muhammad Kohary

    Shaima Jamal Al-Saeed