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37 essays in an expanded edition of the author's major volume of criticism


10 thoughts on “Selected Essays

  1. says:

    I love Eliot's poetry especially Four uartets but I find that his criticism is just as present day to day for me These essays offer an education Without his finely appreciative advocacy it might have been years before I picked up Webster Tourneur and Jonson These essays are also great specimens of the English review essay; as with James Eliot's conuest of literary London was partly due to his mastery of the lofty authoritative we of canonic critcism


  2. says:

    The man's critical faculties were machete sharp and scalpel precise Every essay in here reads like the work of somebody with a desk full of papers who throws them all on the floor in one motion and starts from scratch The craftsmanship and attack strategy is consistently illuminating Reading his critical work is like watching fog dissipateA big chunk of this falls into hyper specialized poetry and theater criticism that I have little use for and religious writing that is specialized and speaks to a social climate about which I know very little but the whole thing deserves to be scanned for structural insight His observations about the role of critics and the problems of being a journalist would hold up anyplace


  3. says:

    As a poet and critic who was also a dramatist Eliot occupied an unusual position among 20th century English language writers His thoughts on earlier dramatists—who we should recall commonly wrote in verse—are useful for anyone encountering their work on stage or in print and that's why I got hold of this collection though it's important for other reasons as well I'm dipping into it from time to time as the occasion arises; for instance I relied on it in assessing a production of Marlowe's Tamburlaine in 2014


  4. says:

    I would be lying if I said I was familiar with all the references made in this book The fact is that Eliot is better read and knows languages than I ever hope to achieve in this lifetime Still this book was really edifying


  5. says:

    Eliot was born in the US but following grad work at the Sorbonne and Oxford Europe must have seemed comfortable because he stayed there for years During these years he began to make his mark as a poet dramatist and literary critic This book contains some of his most provocative literary critiues The book begins with Eliot’s view of literary talent and the role of criticism In these two essays he seems to presage postmodernism in his view that the writer can’t be extracted from hisher culture and literary traditions; nor can the writer thrive without the influence of subseuent criticism Criticism to Eliot then is a traditionalcultural effort to direct the writer from creativity’s blind spots to shepherd the himher into writing’s traditions so as to allow the writing to touch ground there before extrapolating into literature’s future Many of the essays following these early two concern his view of Elizabethan drama and the poetry of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries Here Eliot’s tendency to prefer the traditions of the past instead of the emerging ones draw him as a complex figure – willingly trapped in the literary past but writing some of the most modern poetry of the twentieth century With his stay in England his religious views took a conservative turn from Unitarianism to the Church of England Tradition surfaces here too in the book’s final essays in which he takes Irving Babbitt’s humanistic views to task Babbitt who seemed to discard religion altogether as a valid human enterprise dwelt on humanism as a secular substitute Eliot’s argument while elouently put seems not to understand the evolution of secularism as a social phenomenon preferring to see humanism ie ethics morality et al as secondary to the mysteries religious faith is determined to perpetuate But what of Eliot’s writing? His is elouent throughout but his opinions reflections and arguments while witty and full of life seem longwinded – blather for the most part Still he can’t escape the poet and dramatist within himself and there’s enough here to coach the aspiring poet to a higher level of accomplishment For that reason alone the book is worth the read


  6. says:

    Read the Hamlet and Shakespeare essays Eliot can distill so much into a single sentence Good lead in to reading Montaigne who he and others believe had a strong influence on Shakespeare


  7. says:

    I feel bad about giving TS Eliot's Selected Essays only two stars since there are some terrific essays in here for instance Shakespeare and the Stoicism of Seneca Hamlet and His Problems Dante and the essays near the end on humanism But try sitting through an essay on Cyril Tourneur or Philip Massinger and see if you're patience isn't tried What Eliot is trying to do with this book is lay out his idea of a poetic canon To sum up Eliot poetry has given birth to two great geniuses Shakespeare and Dante And then there's everyone else Everyone else though is not too fun to read about


  8. says:

    This is an outstanding selection of essays by T S Eliot and a superb introduction and anthology of his literaryintellectualcultural passions and pursuits Understandably he is still mostly known only for his poems well at least in schools where he's taught in literature courses; usually and only the poems The Waste Land and The Love Song of J Alfred Prufock the latter being my favourite of his poems transcending in uality and feeling his most famous The Waste Land not simply because it is far accessible but it is from the heart rather than the head and there are rewards to be gained by the marvellous riches of the metaphors and similes usedThe collection is the third and final revised edition whose contents only Eliot himself selected and it is most highly recommended to you whether you dip in and out of the Sections and individual essays according to your particular interests or read them all from cover to cover without changing course I can guarantee that if you are passionate about pre 20th century poetry literature in general especially English for the last two clauses here criticism thereof or the humanities in general you will find much to engage and stimulate your mind and love for literature While all of his essays demand your undivided attention as a close reader because every sentence of his matters rest assured that such dedication is than rewarded by the learning pleasure and insight you will gain from reading them And as with all truly great critics his individual studies of writers compel you with passion and enthusiasm to read their works to which he refersFor those interested in the specific content itself the following goes into greater detail This anthology is divided into seven sections The first has two polemics one on 'Tradition and the Individual Talent' the other 'The Function of Criticism' published in 1923 was and remained for many decades a milestone in literary criticism being regarded as of the first really modernist perspectivesapproaches to it though I feel the 19th century poet and critic Matthew Arnold's criticism deserves much recognition for being a strong advocate of modernist literature This polemic radically differentiated itself from the Edwardian and Victorian literary criticism save the caveat of Arnold's work Section II comprises essays on Euripides Dramatic Poetry Rhetoric and Poetic Drama and a wonderful one on `Seneca in Elizabethan Translation' Section III is one of the two largest the other being VII consisting of several essays The third section is devoted to Elizabethan poets and dramatists and within it you will find beautifully written articles on Marlowe Ben Jonson Thomas Middleton and `Shakespeare and the Stoicism of Seneca'Section IV is represented by a standalone essay and deservedly so on Dante The greater part is rightly devoted to the Divine Comedy and it is a truly marvellous deeply researched and stimulating series of reflections arguments and contextualisation both culturally and historically situated; he also signposts the significance of Dante's earlier poem written in his youth The Vita Nuova clearly showing you how 'some of its method and design and explicitly the intentions of the Divine Comedy are shown helping particularly towards understanding of the Comedy' Inevitably too you want to rush to read or re read Dante's great poems As with Eliot's earlier essay on the functions of criticism at the time of the publication of `Dante' in 1929 it was also regarded as a landmark in Dante studiesSection V is devoted to poets and all the pieces are marvellous with compelling insightful and appreciations of the Metaphysical Poets besides individual ones on Swinburne Tennyson devoted to his poem In Memoriam' while considering his others Eliot argues that it is this one in which Tennyson finds `full expression' and is `uniue' in his oeuvre; and brilliant ones on Marvell Dryden most especially if you were ever put off by reading Dryden in the past as I was or are otherwise unfamiliar with his work I assure you this essay will drive you with gusto to his poetry and BlakeSection VI strikes me as an odd bag and is the only one that doesn't seem to cohere as a group; essays on Lancelot Andrews and John Bramhall are to my mind not of much merit and worse there's a tiresome 25 pages of reflection on the 1930 Report of the Lambeth Conference famous at the time about the issues within state of and future considerations of the Church of England unless you're a devoted theologian or an absolute C of E enthusiast its history and all I just can't see how it would interest any one at all But then Eliot redeems himself wonderfully well by two stimulating essays one on `Religion and Literature' and a somewhat intellectually intimidating one frankly I think it the most such of all his essays herein on Pascal's Pensees and apologies to purists for the absence of the accentMost satisfying of them all you arrive at Section VII where you will be drawn into superb criticism on Baudelaire The Humanism of Irving Babbitt Second Thoughts about Humanism and on the critics Arnold and Pater besides two other essays and an absolutely fantastic one on the multi layered complex relationship both literary and friendship wise on Wilkie Collins and Dickens


  9. says:

    for a good stretch this was an easy five star book then in the back end eliot sinks into writing about writers about whom there is no concern any how could such an immortal writer dedicate so much time to someone like swinburne? in a way that says nothing to those unfamiliar with those writers and religious and social criticism which is both wildly outdated and at best distasteful at worst decisively reprehensible


  10. says:

    'You are a delusion said roundly John Eglinton to Stephen You have bought us all this way to show us a French triangle Do you believe your own theory? No Stephen said promptly' 'Ulysses' p274This book of essays is of historical value it offers an insight into what passed as non academic literary criticism in the first part of the 20th century It has biographical value for anyone interested in the development of Thomas Eliot’ s career; where it is worth remembering that he was publically visible as a critic long before his public renown as a GREAT POET But literary criticism rarely ages well It caries with it the assumptions of its own times the traces of passionate debates now forgotten and is mired in the state of knowledge then available Eliot’s criticism is no different In fact it’s depressing to return to these after several years and see how empty they are As the elouent opinions of a well read man they have some interest As a dinner guest or a companion in the taxi on the way home from the play Eliot would have been witty and thought provoking full of scintillating aphorisms But written down the witty turns of phrase like the essays themselves vaporize under scrutiny For example it’s difficult to imagine anyone studying 'Hamlet' today bothering with Eliot’s famous essay unless to take it as a model of how not to construct a convincing argument It’s not just the 'Hamlet' essay but the whole book that is haunted by a fictional performance in a Dublin Library The difference is that the fictional Stephen is performing to entertain and impress his audience but is still entertaining readers now As lasting commentary on writers or writing Eliot’s essays have the limited value of historically contingent opinions masuerading as objective facts