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Eliot's Compound Ghost: Influence and…

Eliot's Compound Ghost: Influence and Confluence

by Leonard Unger

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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0271002921, Hardcover)

Something new in Eliot criticism, in the words of Grover Smith, this book shows 'the way in which diverse strands of influence converge in specific Eliot poems, rather along the lines of The Road to Xanadu except that instead of being heavy and pendantic it illuminates the poetic texture itself.' 'I can name positively certain poets who influenced me,' T. S. Eliot said, 'I can name others whose work, I am sure, has not; there may be others of whose influence I am unaware, but whose influence I might be brought to acknowledge...' The poet thus implicitly licensed exploratory work like recounted here. Eliot also said, 'The poet's mind is in fact a receptacle for seizing storing up numberless feelings, phrases, images, which remain there until all the particles which can unite to form a new pound are present together.' In Professor Unger's words: 'What we have...is a dynamics of correspondence by which a variety of sources becomes both a conluence and an influence.' Beginning with Eliot's relation to FitzGerald's Rubaiyat Of Omar Khayyam, the author is led into a momentum of associations within a large field of reference, which includes, among others, A. C. Benson, Calderon, Milton, Lawrence, Kipling, Wilde, H. C. Wells, F. H. Burnett. He discovers that Eliot characteristically echoes sources that are resonant with other sources. This book is a scholar-critic's 'commentary on T. S. Eliot's poetry which is also an experience of that poetry. . . after reading it over most of a lifetime.' In Little Gidding Eliot encounters 'the familiar compound ghost' and comments that 'the words sufficed! To compel the recognition they preceded.' Other critics have argued over the relative influence on Eliot of poets far removed from him in time (Dante or the Elizabethans, for instance) and those closer to his lifetime (such as Laforgue or Conrad). Professor Unger's confluence idea demonstrates the futility of such invidious comparisons. In so doing he shows how extensive some of Eliot's roots are in his immediate past and also how deeply these roots go back through our entire literary heritage. The book ends with a plea to avoid treating the study of literature as a 'system of ideas which is considered conclusive and exhaustive.'

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:53 -0400)

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