T.S. Eliot and American Poetry

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University of Missouri Press, 1998 - 172 pages

Written in a fine and lucid prose style, T. S. Eliot and American Poetry presents a critical study of Eliot's major poems as it examines what America means to its poets. Eliot's contribution to a poetic dialogue on this subject with Ralph Waldo Emerson, Edgar Allan Poe, Walt Whitman, Hart Crane, Robert Lowell, John Ashbery, and other literary figures plays a significant role in this groundbreaking study.

Investigating Eliot's literary inheritance through his familial traditions, represented particularly by his mother, Charlotte Eliot, and in terms of the American Renaissance, Lee Oser addresses all phases of Eliot's career as a poet. Following an introduction that reevaluates the importance of Poe and Whitman for Eliot and modernism, the discussion proceeds from Eliot's reaction against the progressive ethos of late Puritan culture, to the appearance in his writing of numerous figures of exile and disinheritance as an expression of lost American patrimony, to his flight from the realm of history, and his eventual return to the spiritual and cultural traditions of New England. A final chapter weighs Eliot's impact on Robert Lowell, John Ashbery, and Elizabeth Bishop.

Through its dialectical view of American literary and intellectual history, T. S. Eliot and American Poetry constructs a practical methodology for comparing Eliot with other American poets. Juxtaposing Eliot's poems, lectures, and essays (including generous excerpts from Eliot's uncollected prose) with landmark texts by Emerson, Poe, Whitman, and many others, Oser engages in a deeper analysis of Eliot's Americanness than has hitherto been possible. In addressing Eliot's treatment of America as symbol and topos, the work presents a multifaceted chronicle of Eliot's development that enriches formalist and historicist approaches alike.

T. S. Eliot and American Poetry makes numerous original contributions to the field of literary history. No previous work has so richly pursued Eliot's literary and familial inheritance, as well as his legacy to American poetry; the result is a highly nuanced perspective on contemporary debates about poetry, criticism, and culture.

 

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T. S. Eliot and American poetry

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Since Eliot identified so deliberately with all things British, his Americanness is often played down in studies of his work. Oser (English, Millikin Univ.) examines the poet's American literary ... Read full review

Contents

From Poe to Whitman 1
17
Prufrocks Guilty Pleasures
26
Sweeney and the Individual Talent 42
63
Lost Kingdoms
85
The Souls Mysterious Errand
104
Prophecy and Postmodernism
126
The Patient Etherised
147
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About the author (1998)

Lee Oser is an Edward Bennett Williams Fellow and Assistant Professor of English at the College of the Holy Cross, in Worcester, Massachusetts.

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