The Passage He Did Not Take: T.S. Eliot and the English Romantic Tradition

Zhang, Jian (1993) The Passage He Did Not Take: T.S. Eliot and the English Romantic Tradition. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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T. S. Eliot's inheritance from the English Romantic period has been increasingly recognized. Yet enmity against him also amasses as more and more critics have come to see him, not as the beginning of a new poetic movement, but simply as a successor. It seems that recent criticism has accepted, and in some cases has exaggerated, Eliot's relation to the Romantics to the exclusion of some fundamental differences. And also Eliot's poetry has suffered from violent and unfair readings because valuation has been affected by the way critics look at Eliot's tradition. This study seeks to show that Eliot's apparent relation to the Romantics only testifies to the deep disparity between them. To this purpose, it places Eliot's works in a close comparison with his immediate predecessors: Tennyson and Swinburne, and with the High Romantics: Wordsworth, Coleridge, Byron, Shelley and Keats. It has found that Eliot's references to Tennyson had a marked difference before and after his encounter with the work of Laforgue. It has also found that, although Eliot shared Swinburne's interest in French symbolism and Elizabethan-Jacobean drama, the result of the influence on him was totally different. The comparison with the Romantics has brought to the surface some interesting relations between The Waste Land and In Memoriam, between 'Ash-Wednesday' and The Fall of Hvperion, and between The Prelude and the Four Quartets. Yet disparities exist in the strategy, the aim and the effect of Eliot on the one hand and the compared authors on the other. It has shown that behind Eliot's apparent similarities with the Romantics lie his real influences: Dante, Laforgue, Baudelaire, Donne, Marvell, Chapman, Tourneur, Andrewes and so on. The plays show no traces of the Romantics. Yet instead of being a return to classical or Elizabethan drama, they were actually imitations of the current stage with superimposed metaphysical messages and therefore lost the vitality and interest which characterize Eliot's poetry. However, on the whole, Eliot's works have imaginative power and efficacy which cannot be denied. They require the reader's sympathy and a radically different way of reading. The conclusion examines Eliot's own views on originality and contends that his originality is not a matter of whether he had borrowed from his predecessors but what he had done with them.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Additional Information: Adviser: Philip Hobsbaum
Keywords: British & Irish literature
Date of Award: 1993
Depositing User: Enlighten Team
Unique ID: glathesis:1993-74720
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 27 Sep 2019 16:59
Last Modified: 27 Sep 2019 16:59

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