T.S. ELIOT QUESTIONS FOR ENGLISH 492 THEORY, CSU FULLERTON
T.S. ELIOT, "TRADITION AND THE INDIVIDUAL TALENT"
Assigned: T.S. Eliot. "Tradition and the Individual Talent" (955-61). Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism, 2nd edition.
1. On 956-57 of "Tradition and the Individual Talent" (Section I), how does T.S. Eliot describe the poetic tradition and the "mind of Europe" to which he says writers must connect themselves? Further, how can the past be altered by the present when a new work of art enters what he calls the "simultaneous order" of works that make up the western literary tradition?
2. On 957-58 of "Tradition and the Individual Talent" (Section I), how does T.S. Eliot answer the charge that his theory requires "a ridiculous amount of erudition"? "The Waste Land," which Eliot wrote three years after this 1919 essay, seems like a good example of the kind of poetry he is calling for. If you have studied this poem, how do you respond to it, and how do you think it reflects on Eliot's claims about poetic tradition in the present essay?
3. On 958-59 of "Tradition and the Individual Talent" (Section II), how does T.S. Eliot characterize the creative process? What does the poet's mind "express"? How does his scientific analogy of the poet's mind to "a bit of finely filiated platinum" help him explain the creative process? Do you find the analogy apt? Why or why not?
4. On 959-61 of "Tradition and the Individual Talent" (Sections II-III), what fault does T.S. Eliot find with Wordsworth's formulation of poetic expression as "emotion recollected in tranquility"? We know that the essay as a whole rejects romantic expressive doctrine. Is that rejection wholesale, or is Eliot's position somewhat more nuanced with regard to the idea that a poem has something to express? Explain.
5. General question that might be folded into a relevant presentation question on Eliot. Eliot mainly addresses the individual poet who must relate himself or herself to the cultural and poetic tradition of Europe. But what does he at least indirectly suggest about how the reader connects to the kind of literature he is promoting? What inferences can you make regarding this point?
Edition: Leitch, Vincent B. and William E. Cain. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism 2nd edition. Norton, 2010. ISBN-13: 978-0393932928.