The Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. Eliot

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Notes on The Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. Eliot. This set of Tower Notes is 61 pages long and is sold as a fully illustrated PDF file with footnotes and references.

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The Poems: The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, Portrait of a Lady, Preludes, Rhapsody on a Windy Night, The Waste Land, The Hollow Men, Journey of the Magi, A Song for Simeon, Animula, Marina

Introduction: The Invisible Poet

In his critical essay, Tradition and the Individual Talent (published 1917), T. S. Eliot describes the poet as engaged in a ‘continual surrender of himself… a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality.’ He goes on to explain this more fully, in terms, rather bizarrely, of a chemical reaction between oxygen and sulphur dioxide:

The analogy [ used earlier in the essay ] was that of the catalyst. When the two gases previously mentioned are mixed in the presence of a filament of platinum, they form sulphurous acid. This combination takes place only if the platinum is present; nevertheless the newly formed acid contains no trace of platinum, and the platinum itself is apparently unaffected; has remained inert, neutral, and unchanged. The mind of the poet is the shred of platinum. It may partly or exclusively operate upon the experience of the man himself; but, the more perfect the artist, the more completely separate in him will be the man who suffers and the mind which creates; the more perfectly will the mind digest and transmute the passions which are its material.

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T.S. Eliot