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    Thomas Stearns Eliot

    (1885-1965)

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    T. S. Eliot

    (1885-1965)He was a quite important figure in the

    Western literature.

    He once has been the leading figure at thebeginning of the last century in poetry and

    also in literary criticism (New Criticism).

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    New Criticism

    New Criticism emphasizes explication, or "closereading," of "the work itself." It rejects oldhistoricism's attention to biographical andsociological matters. Instead, the objective

    determination as to "how a piece works" can befound through close focus and analysis, rather thanthrough extraneous and erudite special knowledge.

    It is a type of formalist current of literary theory

    that dominated Anglo-American literary criticismin the middle decades of the 20th century. Itemphasized close reading, particularly of poetry, todiscover how a work of literature functioned as aself-contained, self-referential aesthetic object.

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    A Brief Biography

    T.S. Eliot was born in 1888 in St. Louis. He was one

    of the son of a prominent industrialist who came

    from a well- connected Boston family. Eliot always

    felt the loss of his familys New England roots andseemed to be somewhat ashamed of his fathers

    business success; throughout his life he continually

    sought to return to Anglo- Saxon culture, first by

    attending Harvard and then by emigrating toEngland, where he lived from 1914 until his death.

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    A brief biography (continued)

    Eliot began graduate study in philosophy at

    Harvard and completed his dissertation.

    However, he didnt received the degree for

    the outbreak of W W

    . Eliot met EzraPound in 1914 who became his main

    mentor and editor lately as well as edited

    and published Eliots The Waste Land.From then on Eliot began to write criticism,

    partly in an effort to explain his own

    methods.

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    A brief biography

    In 1925, Eliot went to work for the publishing

    house Faber & Faber. In the later 1920s Eliot

    became interested in religion and eventuallyconverted to Anglicanism. Eliot died in 1965

    in London.

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    Summary of His Biography

    (1)born in St. Louis in Missouri

    (2)cultured parents and wealthy family;

    good education

    (3)graduated from Harvard; M. A. degree

    (4)came to Europe for research; stayed in

    England because of WWI

    (5)first worked as a bank clerk and thenan editor

    (6)in 1927, became an English citizen; won

    Nobel Prize in 1948

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    Eliots Poems

    The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

    (1915)

    The Waste Land (1922)The Hollow Man (1925)

    Ash- Wednesday (1930)

    Four Quartets (1935-1942)

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    The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

    Prufrock is a representative character who cannot reconcile histhoughts and understanding with his feelings and will.

    The poem displays several levels of irony, the most important of whichgrows out of the vain, weak man's insights into his sterile life and his

    lack of will to change that life. The poem is full of images of enervation and paralysis, such as the

    evening described as "etherized," immobile. Prufrock understands thathe and his associates lack authenticity. One part of himself would liketo startle them out of their meaningless lives, but to accomplish this hewould have to risk disturbing his "universe," being rejected.

    The latter part of the poem captures his sense defeat for failing to actcourageously.

    Eliot helped to set the modernist fashion for blending references to theclassics with the most sordid type of realism, then expressing the blendin majestic language which seems to mock the subject.

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    The beginning epigraph

    S'io credesse che mia risposta fosse

    A persona che mai tornasse al mondo,

    Questa fiamma staria senza piu scosse.

    Ma percioche giammai di questo fondo

    Non torno vivo alcun, s'i'odo il vero, Senza tema d'infamia ti rispondo.

    Meaning

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    The epigraph comes from the Infernoof Dante'sDivine Comedy(XXVII, 61-66). Count Guido daMontefeltro, embodied in a flame, replies to

    Dante's question about his identity as onecondemned for giving lying advice: "If I believedthat my answer would be to someone who wouldever return to earth, this flame would move nomore, but because no one has ever returned alivefrom this gulf, if what I hear is true, I can reply withno fear of infamy."

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    Explanation of the Title

    T. S. Stearns Eliot (1888-1965) originally entitled this poem"Prufrock Among the Women." He changed the title to "TheLove Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" before publishing thepoem in Poetrymagazine in 1915.

    The words "Love Song" seem apt, for one of the definitionsof love songis narrative poem. And, of course, "The LoveSong of J. Alfred Prufrock" is a narrative, presenting amoment in the life of the title character. It is also a poem. Inaddition, the work has characteristics of most love songs,

    such as repetition (or refrain), rhyme, and rhythm. It alsofocuses on the womanly love that eludes Prufrock.

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    Type of Work:

    Dramatic Monologue A modernisticpoem in the form of a dramatic monologue.

    A dramatic monologue presents a moment in which anarrator/speaker discusses a topic and, in so doing,

    reveals his personal feelings to a listener. Only the narrator,talkshence the term monologue, meaning "single (mono)discourse (logue)." During his discourse, the speakerintentionally and unintentionally reveals information abouthimself. The main focus of a dramatic monologue is this

    personal information, not the speaker's topic. Therefore, adramatic monologue is a type of character study.

    http://www.english.uga.edu/~232/voc/modernism.voc.htmlhttp://www.english.uga.edu/~232/voc/modernism.voc.html
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    Setting

    The action takes place in the evening in a

    bleak section of a smoky city. This city is

    probably St. Louis, where Eliot (1888-1965)grew up. But it could also be London, to

    which Eliot moved in 1914. However, Eliot

    probably intended the setting to be any cityanywhere.

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    Characters J. Alfred Prufrock: The speaker/narrator, a timid, overcautious middle-

    aged man. He escorts his silent listener through streets in a shabbypart of a city, past cheap hotels and restaurants, to a social gatheringwhere women he would like to meet are conversing. However, he ishesitant to take part in the activity for fear of making a fool of himself.

    The Listener: An unidentified companion of Prufrock. The listener

    could also be Prufrock's inner self, one that prods him but fails to movehim to action.

    The Women: Women at a social gathering. Prufrock would like to meetone of them but worries that she will look down on him.

    The Lonely Men in Shirtsleeves: Leaning out of their windows, theysmoke pipes. They are like Prufrock in that they look upon a scene but

    do not become part of it. The smoke from their pipes helps form thehaze over the city, the haze that serves as a metaphor for a timid catwhich is Prufrock.

    http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/redirect?tag=thecompleteshake&creative=374725&camp=211173&link_code=ur1&path=subst/home/home.html
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    Themes

    Loneliness and Alienation: Prufrock is a pathetic manwhose anxieties and obsessions have isolated him.

    Indecision: Prufrock resists making decisions for fear that

    their outcomes will turn out wrong. Inadequacy: Prufrock continually worries that he will make

    a fool of himself and that people will ridicule him for hisclothes, his bald spot, and his overall physicalappearance.

    Pessimism: Prufrock sees only the negative side of his ownlife and the lives of others.

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    Interpretation of this Poem

    Let us go then, you and I,When the evening is spread out againstthe skyLike a patient etherised upon a table;Let us go, through certain half-desertedstreets,

    The muttering retreats 5Of restless nights in one-night cheaphotels

    And sawdust restaurants with oyster-shells:Streets that follow like a tediousargumentOf insidious intent

    To lead you to an overwhelmingquestion 10Oh, do not ask, What is it?Let us go and make our visit.

    The speaker invites the listener to walk withhim into the streets on an evening thatresembles a patient, anesthetized with ether(physicians used ether to render patientsunconscious before an operation), lying onthe table of a hospital operating room. Theimagery suggests that the evening is lifeless

    and listless. The speaker and the listener willwalk through lonely streetsthe businessday has endedpast cheap hotels andrestaurants with sawdust on the floors.(Sawdust was used to absorb spilledbeverages and food, making it easy tosweep up at the end of the day.) The shabbyestablishments will r