Thomas Stearns Eliot Biography

T.S. Eliot: biografia dettagliata con l'analisi di "The waste land", il concetto di storia, lo stile, "mytical method", le nuove tecniche e le note critiche (6 pagine formato doc)

Appunto di appleshampoo


Thomas Stearns Eliot.

Biografia. The best known and most influential literary personality of the period between World Wars I and II, was Thomas Stearns Eliot who born in St Louis, Missouri, in 1888. His family was descended from one of the original Puritan settlers, and his parents were wealthy and fond of culture(his mother was a poet while his father was an artist).
He studied at Harvard, Paris and Oxford universities, thus giving a cosmopolitan bent to his education.
Though an American by birth, his cultural background was at first English and then European. In fact he discovered John Donne and the English Metaphysical poets; he learned Italian by studying Dante, 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 “clear visual images”, “the lucidity” of his style and “his extraordinary force of compression”, to come to the conclusion that “more can be learned about how to write poetry from Dante than from any other English poet”.

T.S. Eliot: opere, pensiero e stile


In 1910 he first went to Europe and studied in Paris at the Sorbonne where he attended Henri Bergson’s lectures, and where he started to read the works of the French Symbolists. 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 the city, and from 1917 to 1919 he was assistant editor of The Egoist. In 1925 he married the British ballet dancer Vivien Haigh -Wood, despite his parents’ worries about her mental stability.
After the collection of poems Prufrock and other Observations(1917),which contains a satirical portrait of the emptiness and pessimism that characterized life in those years, in 1922 he founded “The Criterion”, thus beginning his career as an editor, and published all his writings encouraging also the production of young poets such as Ezra Pound, W.H.Auden, Louis MacNeice and Stephen Spender(1909-1995).


Throughout this time Vivien was in poor health and 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”, dedicated to Ezra Pound.
Based on various legends, it portrays London as a sterile, waste land, and expresses the depression and cynicism of the postwar period. The poem is built around several symbols, the most important of which are drought and flood, representing death and rebirth. The highly allusive manner and numerous references make the poem difficult to understand. Its true originally lies in its presentation of man’s spiritual crisis and in its variety of style, rather than in its literary apparatus. In writing The Waste Land Eliot was influenced by Dante, the English Metaphysical poets and the French symbolists.
In 1927 he became a British citizen and defined himself as “classicist in literature, monarchist in politics, Anglo-Catholic in religion”. In  the same year he joined the Church of England finding the answer to his own questionings and to the despair of a modern world lacking faith and religion. With the poem Ash Wednesday(1930)a new phase began in the poet’s development: though the old attitude remains ,he finds hope in religious belief and in the stabilizing influence of the Christian religion.


This poem is more lyrical in spirit, and the style is relaxed and musical with its repetition and assonance. Eliot finally decided to separate from his wife, who was committed to a mental asylum, where she died nine years later in 1947. Her death, however, created a terrible sense of guilt within the soul of the poet and unhappiness led him to write in a letter of his: “I have always known hell- it is in my bones”.
In the Thirties and Forties, Eliot’s essays became more concerned society. His growing social concernes led him towards the theatre and he became one of the chief exponents of poetic drama. In 1932 he wrote a fragment, Sweeney Agonistes, in 1934 a play, The Rock, and in 1935 a modern miracle play, Murder in the Cathedral, on the well-known conflict between Henry II and Thomas Becket. The latter play was notable for the moving speeches of the Chorus in the traditional Greek manner. The Family Reunion(1939)-a modernization of the story of Orestes-was not equally successful.