Date of Award

7-2008

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Legacy Department

English

Advisor

Paul, Catherine E

Committee Member

Chapman , Wayne K

Committee Member

Young , Arthur P

Abstract

Contrary to much scholarship on T. S Eliot's poetry, I argue that Eliot's work cannot be divided into the two separate categories of before and after The Waste Land. While most of the imagery of Eliot's earlier poems admittedly tends to be much darker than that of his later poems, it is irresponsible to disregard the general bent of the entirety of Eliot's poetry in order to claim that this difference in imagery reflects a total transformation of Eliot's message from one of strict pessimism to one of faith in the Anglican religion. Rather, much biographical and textual evidence shows that both The Waste Land and the Four Quartets take part in the same tradition, with Eliot always keeping the same prophetic aim in mind, that is to awaken a spiritual consciousness in his readers. By examining the influences of Eliot's early studies in pre-reformation Catholicism and medieval Christian mysticism (culminating around 1914), I illustrate the continuing importance of each in both of Eliot's long poems. Most important to my study is the clear and abiding influence of one particular modern work on Christian Mysticism: Evelyn Underhill's Mysticsim: The Preeminent Study in the Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness (1911). Analyzing Underhill's work along with The Waste Land and Four Quartets brings to light strong thematic similarities regarding ideas on Christian Mysticism that are present in both of Eliot's greatest poems.

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