THOMAS STEARNS ELIOT TESINA
The First World War left the country in a disillusioned mood: nothing seemed to be certain, even science seem to offer little security. While the new Universe was emerging, scientists and philosophers destroyed the old Universe, and the optimistic outlook it was characterised by.
The first set of new ideas was introduced by Sigmund Freud in his essay The Interpretation of Dreams. Freud’s view of the developing psyche emphasized the power of the unconscious to affect behaviour.
The growing crisis of values was also due to the introduction of “relativity” in science: Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity discarded the concepts of time and space, which he conceived of as subjective dimensions.
At the beginning of the 1900, a period of deep social and intellectual change, a powerful international movement called Modernism grew up: Modernism dominated the sensibility and aesthetic choices of all greatest artists of the Age, that implied a break with traditional values in favour of introspection and technical skill.
A number of common features can be highlighted:
• The intentional distortion of shape, (in poetry, rhymes disappeared in favour of blank verse)
• The breaking down of limitations in space and time;
• The awareness that our perception of reality is necessarily uncertain, temporary and subject to change,(characters’ introspection become a central theme);
• The need to reflect the complexity of modern urban life in artistic form;
• The intensity of the isolated “moment” or “image” to provide a true insight into the nature of things;
• An interest in the primitive and a reconsideration of the “past” without the restrictions imposed by national or continental culture;
• The importance of unconscious as well as conscious life;
• The impossibility of giving an absolute interpretation of reality.
THOMAS ELIOT POETICA
The isolation and the alienation of modern man became the main themes of literature.
Some intellectual held that tradition and innovation were intertwined, as T. S. Eliot said in Tradition and Individual Talent.
Writers and poets drew inspiration from classical as well as new cultures to create a new subjective mythology. Artists regarded the past as a source which they could remould in a personal, original way. For instance, T. S. Eliot in The Waste Land exploited a wide range of influences: from Buddhist sources to the Metaphysical poets or even Dante; Joyce’s stream of consciousness is certainly indebted to Freud and Bergson.
The most original contribute to English literature during the first half of this century were made up by American living in England, like Ezra Pound or T. S. Eliot, and two Irish authors (Yeats and Joyce).
BIOGRAFIA THOMAS STEARNS ELIOT
THOMAS STEARNS ELIOT (1888 - 1965). Thomas Stearns Eliot was born in St Louis, Missouri, in 1888 by a family of English descent and was educated at Harvard.
Though an American by birth, his cultural background was at first English and then European. He learned Italian by studying Dante, to whom he devoted one of his most celebrated essays in 1929: here Eliot stated Dante was the poet who best expressed a universal situation and praised him for his “clear visual images”, for “the lucidity” of his style and for “his extraordinary force of compression”. He was convinced that “more can be learned about how to write poetry from Dante than from any English poet”.
In 1910, he first went to Europe and studied in Paris at the Sorbonne, where he attended Henri Bergson’s lectures. Later he came back to Harvard and he took a degree in philosophy.
At the outbreak of the First World War, he settled in London, where he published essays on philosophy, taught for a while and started to work as a clerk in Lloyd’s Bank. In 1915, he married the British ballet dancer Vivien Haigh-wood, despite his parents worry about her mental stability. He was becoming a famous writer while his wife Vivien was in poor health, therefore Eliot was under considerable emotional strain. He spent some time in a Swiss sanatorium, in Lausanne, undergoing psychological treatment and here he finished The Waste Land; poetry became his only refuge where expressing all his horror at his unhappy home life, and some lines of The Waste Land reflected a deep repulsion at his marriage.
This long poem was published in 1922 after Ezra Pound had helped to reduce it to its final form, and Eliot later dedicated it to Pound himself, “il miglior fabbro- the better craftsman”, a quotation from Dante’s Purgatory.