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T. S. Eliot's Dialectical Imagination
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The thought-tormented characters in T. S. Eliot's early poetry are paralyzed by the gap between mind and body, thought and action. The need to address this impasse is part of what drew Eliot to philosophy, and the failure of philosophy to appease his disquiet is the reason he gave for abandoning it. In T. S. Eliot's Dialectical Imagination, Jewel Spears Brooker argues that two of the principles that Eliot absorbed as a PhD student at Harvard and Oxford were to become permanent features of his mind, grounding his lifelong quest for wholeness and underpinning most of his subsequent poetry. The first principle is that contradictions are best understood dialectically, by moving to perspectives that both include and transcend them. The second is that all truths exist in relation to other truths. Together or in tandem, these two principles-dialectic and relativism-constitute the basis of a continual reshaping of Eliot's imagination. The dialectic serves as a kinetic principle, undergirding his impulse to move forward by looping back, and the relativism supports his ingrained ambivalence. Brooker considers Eliot's poetry in three blocks, each represented by a signature masterpiece: "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," The Waste Land, and Four Quartets. She correlates these works with stages in the poet's intellectual and spiritual life: disjunction, ambivalence, and transcendence. Using a methodology that is both inductive-moving from texts to theories-and comparative-juxtaposing the evolution of Eliot's mind as reflected in his philosophical prose and the evolution of style as seen in his poetry-Brooker integrates cultural and biographical contexts. The first book to read Eliot's poems alongside all of his prose and letters, T. S. Eliot's Dialectical Imagination will revise received readings of his mind and art, as well as of literary modernism.
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Table of Contents

AbbreviationsAcknowledgementsIntroduction1. The Debate between Body and Soul in Eliot's Early Poetry2. Eliot's First Conversion3. Eliot's Debt to F. H. Bradley4. The Poet and the Cave-Man5. Individual Works and Organic Wholes6. Poetry and Despair7. Love and Ecstasy in Donne, Dante, and Andrewes8. Eliot's Second Conversion9. An Exilic Triptych10. "Into our first world"11. War and the Problem of Evil in the Wartime QuartetsNotesBibliography: EliotBibliography: OtherIndex

About the Author

Jewel Spears Brooker is emeritus professor of literature at Eckerd College in Florida. She is the author of Reading "The Waste Land": Modernism and the Limits of Interpretation and Mastery and Escape: T. S. Eliot and the Dialectic of Modernism, and is coeditor of volumes 1 and 8 of The Complete Prose of T. S. Eliot: The Critical Edition.

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