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Selected Prose of T.S. Eliot by T. S. Eliot

Selected Prose of T.S. Eliot (original 1975; edition 1975)

by T. S. Eliot

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422137,383 (3.84)3
Title:Selected Prose of T.S. Eliot
Authors:T. S. Eliot
Info:Harvest Books (1975), Paperback
Collections:Your library
Tags:essays, american, 20c, modernism, expatriate, T.S. Eliot, literary criticism

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Selected Prose of T.S. Eliot by T. S. Eliot (1975)



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I will admit that I was a little worried about reading prose written by a well-known poet, but luckily Eliot's prose writing is as virtuosic as his poetry. His essays are both easily enjoyable and incredibly beautiful, and I found myself noting passages for both their insight and their beauty. This collection is helpfully split up into three types of essay, essays in generalization, appreciations of individual authors, and social and religious criticism, which are categories that Eliot described when looking back on his writing. This makes it easy to read the kind of essay you feel like reading at the moment while skipping things you might not be interested in, and makes the essays flow together nicely.

I found the essays in generalization to be the most interesting, as they dealt with criticism, theory, aesthetics, poetics, and the use of poetry and criticism. His essay on "Verse Libre" was a short but thorough look at the misconceptions surrounding supposedly "free verse" poetry, and what makes poems without a strict meter or rhyme scheme good. Easy to read, and with lovely quotable passages like "Freedom is only truly freedom when it appears against the background of an artificial limitation," this essay should be assigned reading for poetry students everywhere. His essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent" should likewise be required reading. In this essay, Eliot argues that modern writers can only be evaluated in light of their relation to the past, and that classics are made by how they fit into and change our perception of the course of tradition. Eliot's essays on criticism are equally useful, stressing that critics focus on the facts of the content and structure of a piece rather than writing florid essays about how a work made them feel. "When we do not know, or when we do not know enough, we tend always to substitute emotions for thoughts." With a brilliant mind and a way with words, Eliot is an excellent essayist on the subject of literature.

While I loved his essays of generalization, I found the section on individual authors slightly less helpful, though not any less well-written. Because I had not read many of the authors he was writing on, I couldn't really appreciate the essays as well as I would have liked. On the other hand, his essay on a few poets made me eager to add them to my to-read list, and his praise of Joyce made me want to quit being such a chicken and pick up his books already. For those who may be more well-read than I, this section of the essays may be more useful.

While I found this collection as a whole to be very informative and eye-opening, there were a few essays that I did not enjoy, and a few points about which I disagreed with Eliot. His emphasis on Latin being the most universal language to Westerners was a bit weird, and had a little too much classical studies bias for me to really buy into it completely. His essays on religion and culture were, at least to me, disappointing. He talked about Christianity as if it were a threatened minority, when of course Christians are both the majority of the population and of governments. His fears of the secularization of society and the adaptable nature of anything other than Christian morality seemed very close-minded to me, which was surprising to see in a man whose ideas are otherwise so expansive and cutting-edge. Since he was a convert to Anglicanism, I guess I can understand his need to do what he saw as defending Christianity, but I feel that he went too far and came off as close-minded. Luckily for us, his poems, even those that are overtly religious like The Four Quartets, lack that pedantic dogmatism and remain focused on the personal contemplative mysteries of his religion, and are therefore enjoyable by all.

Overall, I would say that Eliot's essays are absolutely incredible. Even when I don't agree with his subject matter or think that his logic follows, the writing is always superb. His insights into literature, especially in the essays at the beginning of this collection, were enlightening and enthralling. If you at all interested in Eliot, who was an influential critic and cultural icon of his day as well as an incredible poet and playwright, I would highly recommend this collection.

Rating: 4 stars
Recommendations: If you're a literature geek like me, these might be the essays for you. I especially recommend the essays of generalization at the beginning of the book.
(Review from December 2011) ( )
  SuperWhoLock | Nov 16, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
T. S. Eliotprimary authorall editionscalculated
Kermode, FrankEditorsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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Literary criticism is a distinctive activity of the civilized mind. -T.S. Eliot, 1961
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This is T.S. Eliot's Selected Prose of T.S. Eliot, edited by Frank Kermode. Please, don't combine this work with Selected Prose, edited by John Hayward.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0156806541, Paperback)

Thirty-one essays-categorized as “essays in generalization,” “appreciations of individual authors,” and “social and religious criticism”- written over a half century. This volume reveals Eliot’s original ideas, cogent conclusions, and skill and grace in language. Edited and with an Introduction by Frank Kermode; Index. Published jointly with Farrar, Straus & Giroux.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:14:50 -0400)

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