The Extraordinary Man: An Interpretation of T.S. Eliot's Concept of The Waste Land

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T.S. Eliot, waste land, literary interpretation, the extraordinary man, spirituality, society


Comparative Literature | English Language and Literature | Religion


This thesis advances an original concept of the extraordinary man as the creator of spiritual qualities within society. In none of the major critics of Eliot is there a suggestion of the concept, either in reference to The Waste Land (1922) or to the entire Eliot canon. Many of Eliot's finest critics are concerned with areas other than his philosophy. Helen Gardner in The Art of T.S. Eliot and F.O. Matthiessen in The Achievement of T.S. Eliot have written admirable criticism in dealing with Eliot's writings through his images and method. This thesis, however, is concerned primarily with changes in Eliot's philosophy during his lifetime. Criticism of the poet in this realm is highly diverse. Many critics, such as Smith and Craig, maintain that the poem is a mass of meaningless fragments, that it "breaks down in madness" or that "it [The Waste Land] is...against life, prompting only negative responses." Brooks advances perhaps the most widely-acclaimed views, seeing The Waste Land as poem progressing to an optimistic conclusion. Drew's theory sees Eliot's works in terms of a philosophy moving towards a spiritual awakening, yet views The Waste Land as part of the continuum in a negative period rather than as providing a positive overview of the poet's works. This thesis, however, sees The Waste Land as a coherent whole which provides a unifying overview of all of the poet's works, with its unification achieved through a development of men of greater spiritual qualities moving to restore a wasted world.

Department 1 Awarding Honors Status

English: Literature and Writing

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