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Presentation by Valentina Boresta, Giorgia Bova, Silvia Fratini, Veriana Vespa


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Thomas Stearns Eliot : 

1 Thomas Stearns Eliot (Saint Louis, Missouri, 1888 – Londra,1965 )

Biography : 

2 Biography Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St. Louis, Missouri, the seventh and youngest child of a distinguished family of New England origin. Henry, Eliot's father, was a prosperous industrialist and his mother Charlotte was a poet. Eliot attended Smith Academy in St. Louis and Milton Academy in Massachusetts. In 1906 he went to Harvard, where he contributed poetry to Harvard Advocate. After receiving his B.A. in 1909, Eliot spent a year in France, attending Henri Bergson's lectures and studying poetry with the novelist and poet Henri Alain-Fournier. He then returned to Harvard, where he worked on a dissertation on the English idealist philosopher F.H. Bradley. Eliot also studied Sanskrit and Buddhism. In 1915 Eliot made England his permanent home. With Ezra Pound, his countryman and an advocate on literary modernism, he started to reform poetic diction. Pound was largely responsible for getting Eliot's early poems into print, such as “The Love song of J. Alfred Prufrock”. Eliot taught for a year at Highgate Junior School in London, and then worked as a clerk at Lloyds Bank, where he wrote articles for the monthly in-house magazine.

3 With his collection of essays, “The sacred wood” (1920), and later published “The use of poetry and the us of criticism” (1933). In 1922 Eliot founded the Criterion, a quarterly review that he edited until he halted its publication at the beginning of World War II. With the help of Pound, who had raised money from friends and patrons, Eliot left the bank. In 1925 he joined the publishing house of Faber and Gwyer (later Faber and Faber), becoming eventually one of the firm's directors. Between the years 1917 and 1919, Eliot was an assistant editor of the journal the Egoist. From 1919 onward he was a regular contributor to the Times Literary Supplement Eliot's first marriage from 1915 with the ballet-dancer Vivienne Haigh-Wood turned out to be unhappy. She was temperamental, full of life, restless :her condition was diagnosed as hysteria. Later Eliot married his secretary, Valerie Fletcher. After a physical and mental breakdown in 1921, Eliot went to Lausanne for treatment. There he completed The Waste Land (1922). Following Pound's suggestion, Eliot reduced The Waste Land and the first version, with Pound's revisions, was published in 1971.

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4 In 1927 Eliot became a British citizen and member of the Church of England. His way towards his own particular brand of High Anglicanism may be charted in his poetry, starting from 'The Hollow Men' (1925) to visions in Four Quartets (1935-42), which Eliot himself regarded as his masterpiece. Eliot died in London on January 4, 1965. His ashes were taken to St Michael's Church in East Coker, his ancestral village.

5 Poetry : The love song of J. Alfred. Prufrock: it was dedicated to one of Eliot’s friends. It talks about a man in love who understands that love is impossible because he lives the man’s crisis of values of nineteenth century, a man who feels a sense of restlessness, who doesn’t say how to face the changes of a modern and scientific age; so Prufrock represents frustration and impotence in front of problems bigger than him. The Waste Land: it’s a long poem. This land is the land of medieval poems that the knights must cross for the search of the Graal (one of the central symbols of the poem), and it’s also the modern world characterized by the crisis of values and human sterility of western civilization, in opposition to the ancient age. But in this modern world the search doesn’t succeed, because truth is elusive. Neither the arrival of the sprig brings happiness and consolations, because in the modern world nothing has significance. The hollow men: it’s a poem and contains some themes of The Waste Land. In fact the hollow men are the correlative of the modern men. They haven’t got identity or personality, they utter vacuum words…they are hollow and stuffed of straw and don’t succeed to support men’s virtuous view. They live in a deserted land, in which there are only cactuses (a symbol of sterility), and in which they have built images of stone, false idols that are the symbol of the lack of communication. So, the hollow men are fixed in a situation of weakness and inertia. MAIN WORKS

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6 Ash Wednesday: it’s the first long poem written by Eliot after his conversion to Anglicanism. This poem deals with the struggle that ensues when one who lacked faith in the past strives to move towards God. So Ash-Wednesday, with a base of Dante's Purgatorio, is about human salvation. Four Quartets: they’ re four little poems divided into five sections. They have a very complex plot full of symbolical-theological and philosophical references. Circularity is a recurrent theme as well as the relationship between time and history and divinity, Redemption… Each quartet is related to the four seasons and the four Aristotelian elements. Moreover, they are characterized by a thick presence of symbols, images, objects, and places; some of theme give the title to the quartets.

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7 Plays: Murder in the cathedral: it’s a drama about the assassination of Archbishop Thomas Becket in Canterbury Cathedral in 1170, and the principal theme is the contrast between the Church and the State. The Archbishop wanted to solve this opposition, but he was prevented by the same priests and by the royal power. He was killed by the king’s knights. So the poet wonders what’s the social role of faith, what kind of conscience has the Church of its own presence among the men… The Cocktail Party: it’s a play in three acts about a crisis between two spouses. There is a series of intrigues in the story, until during a party a mysterious guest, a sort of souls doctor, succeeds to reunite the spouses. The story places the characters in the crucible of choices, of indecisions, but it doesn’t give solutions. So Eliot, dramatizing the spouses’ condition wants to demonstrate the difficulty of men to face choices, and to live with their consequences. The Elder Statesman: this work contains Eliot’s final vision of life. It’ message is that nobody can flee the past or escape his responsibility. salvation can only be obtained through expiation. A very important theme is that of love, which must be found on true confessions and trust.

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8 Essays Tradition and the individual talent: in this work Eliot speaks about the role of the poet and the meaning of tradition; the poet hasn’t a personality to express, so the refusal of romantic poets. In fact, great works don’t express the personal emotions of the poet, because poetry is an “escape from emotion”. Moreover, no poet, no artist has a complete meaning in himself: his comprehension is only in relation with the poets and the artists of the past. So, Eliot gives importance to tradition because it represents a sense of order, a fusion of past and present; novelty is possible, but only through tradition. After Strange Gods: Here Eliot strongly criticises society that continues to inebriate itself with words that deceive men and drag them far from a perfect organization of the world. According to Eliot, this is a hierarchical organization of classes led by a theological elite who must create an education system able to bring humanity towards universal values. The Sacred Wood: it’ s a book of essays, published in 1920. One of the themes it deals with is the importance of criticism. A good critic must develop the reader’s sensibility in order to help him a understand what really counts in human experience. Oother themes are the refusal of romantic sentimentalism, the relationship between poetry and religion, the meaning of tradition…

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9 Works about Dante: They are some essays in which Eliot expresses his admiration for the medieval poet. In one essay he reflects on the fact that Dante was able to establish a relationship between the language of poetry and that of philosophic contemplation. In a second essay, he says that Dante’s poem has a strong coherence, because poetic elements and the poet’s personal knowledge are harmoniously connected. In another essay Eliot talks about the influence Dante has had on him.

The Journey of the Magi : 

10 The Journey of the Magi 'A cold coming we had of it,Just the worst time of the yearFor a journey, and such a journey:The ways deep and the weather sharp,The very dead of winter.'And the camels galled, sore-footed, refractory,Lying down in the melting snow.There were times we regrettedThe summer palaces on slopes, the terraces,And the silken girls bringing sherbet. Then the camel men cursing and grumblingAnd running away, and wanting their liquor and women, And the night-fires going out, and the lack of shelters, And the cities hostile and the towns unfriendly "Fu un freddo arrivo per noi,Proprio il tempo peggiore dell'annoPer un viaggio, e per così lungo viaggio: Le vie fangose e la stagione rigida,Nel cuore dell'inverno."E i cammelli piagati, zampe sanguinanti, indocili,sdraiati sulla neve che si scioglie.Ci furono momenti in cui rimpiangemmoI palazzi d'estate sui pendii, le terrazze,Le fanciulle di seta che portavano sorbetti. Poi i cammellieri imprecanti e lamentosiche scappavano e volevano i loro liquori e donne.E i fuochi che di notte si spegnevano, e la mancanza di ripari,E le città ostili e i paesi non amichevoli

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11 And the villages dirty and charging high prices:A hard time we had of it.At the end we preferred to travel all night,Sleeping in snatches,With the voices singing in our ears, sayingThat this was all folly. Then at dawn we came down to a temperate valley,Wet, below the snow line, smelling of vegetation;With a running stream and a water-mill beating the darkness,And three trees on the low sky,And an old white horse galloped in away in the meadow.Then we came to a tavern with vine-leaves over the lintel,Six hands at an open door dicing for pieces of silver, E i villaggi sporchi e molto costosi:Furono tempi duri per noi.Infine preferimmo viaggiare di notte,dormendo di quando in quando,Con le voci che ci cantavano nelle orecchie, dicendoChe questo era tutta follia. Poi all'alba scendemmo in una valle tiepida,Umida, più in basso della neve, odorosa di vegetazione;Con un rapido torrente e un mulino che batteva il buio,E tre alberi contro il cielo basso, E un vecchio cavallo bianco che galoppò via sui prati.Poi giungemmo ad una taverna con foglie di vite sulle travi,Sei mani in una porta aperta giocavano a dadi pezzi d'argento,

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12 And feet kicking the empty wine-skins.But there was no imformation, and so we continued And arrived at evening, not a moment too soonFinding the place; it was (you may say) satisfactory. All this was a long time ago, I remember,And I would do it again, but set downThis set downThis: were we led all that way forBirth or Death? There was a Birth, certainly, We had evidence and no doubt. I had seen birth and death,But had thought they were different; this Birth was Hard and bitter agony for us, like Death, our death. E piedi calciavano otri di vino vuoti.Ma non c'erano informazioni, e così proseguimmo. E arrivati a sera, non un momento troppo prestoTrovammo il posto; fu (potreste dire) soddisfacente. Tutto questo fu molto tempo fa, ricordo,E lo rifarei, ma considerateConsiderate questoQuesto: fummo guidati lungo tutta quella strada perNascita o Morte? Ci fu una Nascita, certamente,Ne avemmo prova e nessun dubbio. Avevo visto nascita e morteMa avevo pensato fossero diverse; questa Nascita fuDura e amara agonia per noi, come Morte, la nostra morte.

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13 We returned to our places, these Kingdoms, But no longer at ease here, in the old dispensation,With an alien people clutching their gods.I should be glad of another death. Tornammo ai nostri luoghi, quei Regni,Ma non più confortevoli là, nelle antiche pratiche,Con un un popolo straniero aggrappato ai suoi dèi.Sarei lieto di un'altra morte.

Text analysis : 

14 Text analysis T.S. Eliot's poem "Journey of the Magi" describes the journey of the "Wise men from the East" towards Christ and thus, symbolically, towards Christianity. Many critics parallel the Magi's journey with Eliot's own journey in search of "satisfaction" in Christianity. Critics suggest that Eliot's "Journey of the Magi" focuses on the affirmation of Christ that comes from the Magi's journey towards faith through birth, death, and rebirth, a journey that parallels Eliot's own struggles with his faith The poem is an account of the journey from the point of view of one of the magi. It picks up Eliot's consistent theme of alienation and a feeling of powerlessness in a world that has changed. The poem is, instead of a celebration of the wonders of the journey, largely a complaint about a journey that was painful, tedious, and seemingly pointless. The speaker says that a voice was always whispering in their ears as they went that "this was all folly". The magus seems generally unimpressed by the infant, and yet he realizes that the incarnation, has changed everything. He asks, ". . . were we led all that way for Birth or Death?" The birth of the Christ was the death of Eliot's world of magic, astrology, and paganism. The speaker, recalling his journey in old age, says that after that birth his world had died, and he had little left to do but wait for his own end.

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15 There are at least two formal elements of the poem that are interesting. The first is that the poem maintains Eliot's long habit of using the dramatic monologue.The speaker of the poem is in agitation and speaks to the reader directly. His revelations are accidental and born out of his emotional distress. As with other works, Eliot chooses an elderly speaker – someone who is world weary, reflective, and sad. His narrator in this poem is a witness to historical change who seeks to rise above his historical moment, a man who, despite material wealth and prestige, has lost his spiritual bearings. Secondly, the poem has a number of symbolist elements, where an entire philosophical position is summed up by the manifestation of a single image. For example, the narrator says that on the journey they saw "three trees against a low sky"; the single image of the three trees implies the historical future (the crucifixion) and the spiritual truth of the future (the skies lowered and heaven opened). These features are not "symbols" in the usual sense. They are physical features that contain what the Symbolists would see as a transhistorical truth. This is notable in that Eliot, although using symbols throughout his poetic career, did not write in a Symbolist manner as often in the middle of his career, as he had moved instead toward a more fragmentary view of human perception of truth.


16 …THE HOLLOW MEN… Mistah Kurtz - he dead A penny for the old guy

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17 I We are the hollow men We are the stuffed men Leaning together Headpiece filled with straw. Alas! Our dried voices, when We whisper together Are quiet and meaningless As wind in dry grass Or rats' feet over broken glass In our dry cellar Shape without form, shade without colour, Paralysed force, gesture without motion; Those who have crossed With direct eyes, to death's other Kingdom Remember us -- if at all -- not as lost Violent souls, but only As the hollow men The stuffed men.

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18 II Eyes I dare not meet in dreams In death's dream kingdom These do not appear: There, the eyes are Sunlight on a broken column There, is a tree swinging And voices are In the wind's singing More distant and more solemn Than a fading star. Let me be no nearer In death's dream kingdom Let me also wear Such deliberate disguises Rat's coat, crowskin, crossed staves In a field Behaving as the wind behaves No nearer -- Not that final meeting In the twilight kingdom

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19 III This is the dead land This is cactus land Here the stone images Are raised, here they receive The supplication of a dead man's hand Under the twinkle of a fading star. Is it like this In death's other kingdom Waking alone At the hour when we are Trembling with tenderness Lips that would kiss Form prayers to broken stone.

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20 IV The eyes are not here There are no eyes here In this valley of dying stars In this hollow valley This broken jaw of our lost kingdoms In this last of meeting places We grope together And avoid speech Gathered on this beach of the tumid river Sightless, unless The eyes reappear As the perpetual star Multifoliate rose Of death's twilight kingdom The hope only Of empty men.

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21 V Here we go round the prickly pear Prickly pear prickly pear Here we go round the prickly pear At five o'clock in the morning. Between the idea And the reality Between the motion And the act Falls the Shadow For Thine is the Kingdom Between the conception And the creation Between the emotion And the response Falls the Shadow Life is very long Between the desire And the spasm Between the potency And the existence Between the essence And the descent Falls the Shadow For Thine is the Kingdom For Thine is Life is For Thine is the This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper

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22 ANALISYS Some critics read the poem as told from five perspectives, each representing a phase of the passing of a soul into one of death's kingdoms ("death's dream kingdom", "death's twilight kingdom", and "death's other kingdom"), Eliot describes how we, the living, will be seen by "those who have crossed with direct eyes... not as lost violent souls, but only as the hollow men — stuffed men." The image of eyes figures prominently in the poem, notably in one of Eliot's most famous lines Eyes I dare not meet in dreams. Such eyes are also generally accepted to be in reference to Dante's Beatrice. The poet depicts figures, "gathered on the beach of [a] tumid river" — drawing considerable influence from Dante's third and fourth cantos of the Inferno which describes Limbo, the first circle of Hell - showing man in his inability to cross into Hell itself or to even beg redemption, unable to speak with God. Dancing "round a Prickly pear," the figures worship false gods, recalling children and reflecting Eliot's interpretation of Western culture after World War I.

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23 The final stanza may be the most quoted of all of Eliot’s poetry; This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends This is the way the world ends Not with a bang but a whimper. This last line alludes to, amongst some talk of war, the actual end of the Gunpowder Plot mentioned at the beginning: not with its planned bang, but with Guy Fawkes's whimper, as he was caught, tortured and executed on the gallows. Some critics, particularly Helen Gardner, have also pointed out a (perhaps un-Eliotic) note of hope insofar as that 'whimper' could be interpreted as the sound of a new-born. Realized by: Boresta, Bova, Fratini, Vespa

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