News

Recent stories relating to TS Eliot
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TS Eliot Research Fellowship at Cambridge University, April 2024

Magdalene College, Cambridge, is inviting applications for an Armstrong TS Eliot Research Fellowship, to conduct research into the writings of TS Eliot, an Honorary Fellow of Magdalene, and his contemporaries.

The College expects to elect this stipendiary (Junior) Research Fellow with tenure for three years from 1 October 2024. “The Research Fellow will have access to archival and other written materials in the College collections and is expected to contribute to the scholarly understanding of these materials. There will be an expense allowance for the Research Fellow to visit other archives.”

Candidates are expected to have completed a PhD or equivalent within 6 years of taking up the post. The deadline for applications is 12 noon on Friday, 31st May 2024, and further details are on the Magdalene College website here.

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Tiresias, the whirlpool and history, April 2024

An essay in the Journal of NeuroPhilosophy argues “that both Tiresias and the whirlpool motif reveal Europe’s post-war anxiety about its exceptionalist self-image”, and suggests that “both figures offer productive models for thinking about our position in history.”

In ‘Hegel’s Wasteland: Situating T.S. Eliot’s Representations of History in Conversation with Hegel’, Virginia Moscetti suggests that “Tiresias, through his sexual plasticity and historical moveability, undermines both prongs of Hegel’s dialectic, Spirit and Nature, while the whirlpool motif subverts the idea that history’s temporal progression can be subordinated to a dialectical logic.”

She concludes that we “are bombarded with frameworks that tell us who we are, what our past is, and what our future will be. By looking to Tiresias, we can shield ourselves from the totalizing power of these frameworks, adjusting our eyes to the murky landscape of human experience throughout time.” The open access essay is here.

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‘Prose style’ in Four Quartets, April 2024

An essay in The Review of English Studies considers the ‘prosaic’ passages in Four Quartets, and what “Eliot’s mimesis of prose style”… “might mean for the poem’s relationship to other forms of discursive writing, chiefly…literary criticism”.

In ‘Four Quartets: Criticism in a New Key’, William Burns suggests that “so-called ‘antipoetic’ passages are actually anticritical, insofar as they serve to radically qualify the claims of academic interpretation, while conversely affording a greater role to an earlier mode of reading displaced by the institutionalisation of literary criticism: judgement.”

He begins by considering whether “philosophy appears [in ‘Burnt Norton’] as one of many discursive practices that the poem may temporarily adopt, then negate—analogous to Eliot’s early pursuit, then refusal of a philosophical career”

William Burns is researching the relationship between American modernist poets and the modern American university, at University College, London. The open access essay is here.

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TS Eliot and Succession, April 2024

In ‘Entering the Whirlpool’, a piece for the Dublin Review of Books, David Barnes makes some intriguing connections between Eliot’s poetry and the award-winning TV series, Succession.

He pinpoints the “Prufrockian perambulations” of lawyer Frank Vernon, and observes that “Frank’s references to ‘Prufrock’ locate the action in an Eliotic hellscape, where the super-rich are imprisoned in and by the sins of their own making.”

“Critics note that one place can feel very much like another in Succession, a billionaire’s life one of interchangeable, transnational luxury in a soft-furnished underworld: ‘Alexandria/ Vienna London/ Unreal’.”

David Barnes is a lecturer in modern literature at the University of Oxford. He has written/broadcast for the BBC, Lithub, London Times, The Guardian, New European, Times Higher Education and Times Literary Supplement, and recently taught a six-week course on Eliot’s The Waste Land at 100 for the City Literary Institute in London.

He considers the drownings in the series, “which echo not only the subterranean world of Prufrock and his ‘sea-girls’ but the themes of Eliot’s next major poem, The Waste Land.” And his title derives from the fact that, as they prepared to film the final eisode, writer and producer Jesse Armstrong sent lead actor Jeremy Strong a single line text: “Entering the whirlpool”.

The essay is here.

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TS Eliot signed card, April 2024

An RSVP card signed by TS Eliot has been put up for auction in the US.

Eliot responds that he “shall not attend the Convocation on October Thirty-First, 1954”. The address he gives is that of Faber & Faber’s offices at the time.

The card will be sold with a Letter Of Authentication from Beckett Authentication Services; bidding begins at $100 ($122 with buyers premium) and details are here.

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Call for contributions to the 2025 T.S. Eliot Studies Annual, March 2024

The editors of the academic T.S. Eliot Studies Annual are inviting contributions for Volume 7, to be published in Summer 2025. The Annual is a joint production of the International T. S. Eliot Society and Clemson University Press in association with Liverpool University Press.

“All critical approaches are welcome, as are essays pertaining to any aspect of Eliot’s work as a poet, critic, playwright, editor, foremost exemplar of modernism, or his influence on twentieth-century and contemporary literature and culture.

“Each volume of the Annual provides a selection of original, peer-reviewed essays (5,000-9,000 words) representing the best in current Eliot scholarship. In addition, the Annual publishes shorter research notes (2,500-4,000 words), book reviews, and a comprehensive bibliography of Eliot-related publications

“The Annual has also regularly featured special forums that organize a set of articles around a unified topic or theme.  For Volume 7, the forum will be guest-edited by Patrick Query, around the theme of “The Eliot We Need.” In a time of extensive reevaluation of Eliot’s legacy, this forum invites research notes (up to 5,000 words) or longer essays on Eliot’s use. In what contexts of cultural, social, or political debate can you imagine productively invoking Eliot’s words? When you look out at the world, what do you think we need from Eliot?”

Full details of the call for papers are here. The deadline for submissions is 15th July 2024.

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Steve Harley, Eliot enthusiast March 2024

Steve Harley, the songwriter, singer and Cockney Rebel frontman, who has died aged 73, was a lifelong enthusiast for the poetry of TS Eliot.

Harley discovered Eliot when young. “My battered paperback copy of TS Eliot’s Collected Poems  has travelled everywhere with me since 1973,” he once said. “Life would be hard to endure without the comfort that Eliot’s mastery of language brings me.”

In 2011, he appeared on Celebrity Mastermind, with the specialist subject of Four Quartets, and as part of his research visited both Burnt Norton (“I, too, found a little magic, but nobody was home, and no soul approached me while I ambled for twenty minutes or so among the rose bushes and fruit trees. I was technically trespassing, so didn’t stay long.”) and Little Gidding (“It, too, is a special place, tranquil and over-brimming with mystery. I sat alone in that tiny place of worship and took a few deep breaths. Seldom have I felt calmer.”

And as a recording artist himself, he favoured Eliot’s own reading of The Waste Land. “Nobody has ever read it better,” he said. “It’s dull. He was a bank manager. Biut it has his voice. The authenticity. The expression can be trusted.”

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New source, new annotations for The Waste Land, March 2024

In Essays In Criticism, Jim McCue, co-editor with Christopher Ricks of The Poems of T.S. Eliot, presents a new source for a passage in The Waste Land, and concludes with the additional annotations which it justifies.

Through ‘serendipity’, McCue stumbled across a passage describing a chemist’s shop in a Rudyard Kipling short story, ‘Wireless’. Drawing comparisons between this passage and the description which opens ‘A Game of Chess’, McCue goes on to present “the evidence that TSE had Kipling’s story somewhere in mind when writing The Waste Land.”

Appreciating that “the case needs substantiating as fully as possible,” McCue does so, further incorporating references from Keats which Kipling used in his story, and which connect with Philomel – before considering “how much…of this exploration of a possible source for The Waste Land is suitable for annotation in an edition of TSE?”

His consideration reveals something of the thinking behind other annotations in The Poems of T.S. Eliot. “The case,” he explains, “depends upon accumulation and triangulation with these canonical poems”.

And in the end, McCue offers four additional annotations to be added to The Poems, which are presented at the conclusion of his essay.

The Kipling story, ‘Wireless’, is in the collection Traffics and Discoveries (1904). Jim McCue’s essay (academic access required) is ‘An Intuition about Kipling: New Annotations for Eliot’

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Modernist approaches to TS Eliot, March 2024

The latest issue of The Modernist Review contains two articles relating to works by TS Eliot.

David Strong, of the University of Glasgow, presents a theopoetic approach to Eliot’s The Rock. Theopetics, he writes, is “a theory of religious art whereby the aesthetic experience of religious truth and beauty substantiate the presence, possibility, and value of the divine.”

In ‘We will build with new speech’: A Theopoetic Approach to T. S. Eliot’s The Rock (1934)’, Strong argues that in The Rock. “Eliot anticipates the philosophical rethinking of the relationship between modern theology and aesthetics and provides an early artistic model for the new theopoetic.”

“Approaching The Rock from a theopoetic perspective,” he writes, “re-enshrines religion as one of the animating forces of Eliot’s turn away from the complex modernist poetry of his earlier career and provides a way of understanding his drama as radical in its own way.”

In the same issue, Lucy Wright, of Leeds Trinity University, explores the artist Francis Bacon’s fascination with the manuscript of The Waste Land, and with the relationship between Eliot and Ezra Pound. “On reflection of [Bacon’s] personal and professional life, alongside the infatuation with the facsimile,” she writes, “it seems as though Bacon had placed Eliot and Pound’s partnership on a pedestal in which he both envied and admired.”

In ‘Re-Imagining Eliot: Francis Bacon’s Painting (1978), Wright references Bacon’s “almost two-decade visual poetic response to Eliot’s (and in this case, Pound’s) work, from 1967 in Triptych Inspired by T.S. Eliot’s ‘Sweeney Agonistes’ to 1982 in A Piece of Waste Land.” Focussing here on Bacon’s Painting (1978), she writes that “A specific example is the out-stretched foot as it turns the key to door, of which Bacon says: ‘I don’t know why I made it turn with the foot – it very much came from that poem of Eliot’s: ‘I have heard the key / Turn in the door once…”’

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First Edition of Poems 1909-1925 to be auctioned, February 2024

A “remarkably fine copy” of T.S. Eliot’s Poems 1909-1925 is being auctioned by Bonhams, London. This was the first of Eliot’s books to be published by Faber & Gwyer. and the first printing of The Waste Land to carry its dedication to Ezra Pound, “il miglior fabbro”.

This First Edition copy has the book’s rare dustjacket, with its cover statement that “This collection contains all Mr. Eliot’s poems so far published, which he wishes to preserve, including ‘The Waste Land’ and many others which have been for some time out of print, as well as some not previously collected.”

(The notion of his collections containing the poetry which Eliot “wishes to preserve” was continued on the dustjackets of the subsequent volumes, 1909-1935 and 1909-1962.)

The copy was from the Estate of the late Hilary Gerrard (1933-2023), formerly Business Manager to Ringo Starr from the 1970s onward; details are here,  and it has an estimate of £1,000–£1,500.

The auction, which ends online on 21st March, also includes a 1922 Boni & Liveright First Edition copy of The Waste Land from the same Estate, also with its original dustjacket and glassine cover. Details are here, and this item has an estimate of £6,000–£8,000.

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Printed version of Eliot’s After Strange Gods, February 2024

The Dissident Review, who state that “our mission is to publish controversial, banned, and subversive historical research”, have announced a reprint of T.S. Eliot’s After Strange Gods.

After Strange Gods has been practically buried in the world of literary culture,” they state, “but now it returns to print, with a re-typeset, modern edition by The Dissident Review. This print edition brings Eliot’s words back into circulation, discussing the roles of religion and heresy in developing fiction, poetry, and culture.”

After Strange Gods, the Page-Barbour lectures delivered by Eliot at the University of Virginia in 1933, was “suppressed” by Eliot himself; later commenting that “the whole tone of After Strange Gods is of a violence that I now deprecate” the book was not reprinted during his lifetime.

At present, the print-on-demand paperback can only be ordered through Amazon sites in Canada and Japan.

The Canadian Amazon listing provides a brief sample of its text. However, even within this sample, there are significant variations from the Faber & Faber First Edition of 1934. There is a missing word; an Americanised misspelling; an erroneous plural; and three spelling variations in its textual epigraph. The typeface lacks the æ character, and the book’s dedication is absent.

The book is not likely to be made available in the UK, where Eliot’s works remain in copyright. The correct text is available in The Complete Prose of T.S. Eliot.

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Exchanges… Winter issue, January 2024

The Winter issue of our Society quarterly, Exchanges, is now available for download.

Its contributions from members include a new perspective on ‘The Elder Statesman’, in the light of the Emily Hale letters; and another look at ‘Journey of the Magi’ – or ‘Old Gentlemen Prefer Silken Girls’, as Eliot himself described it – together with several shorter items of news and interest.

You can download this new issue here.

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Film premiere of The Waste Land, January 2024

A new “creative documentary” film, The Waste Land, by Dutch director Chris Teerink, has its world premiere at the International Film Festival Rotterdam (IFFR), running from 25th January to 4th February.

Teerink’s approach, explained in an article in See NL has been to focus “on the theme of uncertainty that runs through the work, both in terms of Eliot’s verse and the impression it leaves on the reader.”

The director gathers an array of speakers who discuss Eliot’s poem from their own perspectives, from economist Guy Standing to sociologist/urbanist Richard Sennett, from critic and poet Roz Kaveney to opera director Tatjana Gürbaca and Dutch novelist and poet Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer. All of the contributors read lines from the poem, as does Eliot himself, accompanied by images of the original manuscript, replete with annotations and corrections.

A trailer from the film can be viewed here.

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TS Eliot and ‘Eastern Europe’, January 2024

An essay in Critical Quarterly explores what TS Eliot meant by “Eastern Europe” – and the ways in which it differed from his conceptualisation of the Central Europe of Vienna.

Drawing on Eliot’s letters and cultural criticism, Juliette Bretan argues that “Eliot’s references to the region suggest more than generically resonant conditions of decline and hope, for they are also revealing of his anxieties about ‘Eastern European’ nationhood”.

She explores “the tensions which emerge within his work about the region, as his support of cultural tradition and control chafed against a perceived heterogeneity, political contestation and excessive nationalism on the geopolitically tense ‘Eastern European’ plains.” And she explores “how Eliot’s references to the region in The Waste Land contradict his aesthetic and political ideas”.

Juliette Bretan is a PhD student in English at the University of Cambridge. Her research explores representations of Polish and East-Central European geopolitics in Anglophone and Polish modernism.

T.S. Eliot, Post-War Geopolitics and ‘Eastern Europe’ is available to read in full with open access here.

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A new reading of Eliot’s Triumphal March, January 2024

In a fascinating study of a little-considered work, Dr Aakanksha J. Virkar of the University of Brighton argues that TS Eliot’s ‘Triumphal March’ “is in fact an anti-fascist work that celebrates Beethoven, Nietzsche, and the work of the Jewish artist Max Klinger whilst deliberately satirizing and rejecting the fascist cultural politics of this time.”

In the Journal of Modern Literature, Dr Virkar suggests that a series of ekphrastic references specifically reveal Max Klinger’s polychromatic 1902 sculpture, Beethoven (right), as the model of the heroic figure in the poem.“’Triumphal March’ celebrates the artist-hero as against the military-hero,” she writes, “attempting to reclaim Beethoven’s legacy from the distortions of right-wing politics in contemporary Germany.”

The essay counters some previous interpretations of Eliot’s Coriolan series as ‘proto-fascist’. “If Eliot’s concern with fascism in his 1931 Coriolan series finds as its primary object Klinger’s Beethoven monument—in other words, the work of a Jewish artist celebrating the composer-as-Übermensch—then it seems that a fundamental re-reading of Eliot is necessary.”

Her essay considers the significance of E McKnight Kauffer’s illustrations to the poem, and the influence of Nietzsche’s philosophy, and traces the later recurrence of lines and motifs in ‘Burnt Norton’. “What Eliot upholds in ‘Triumphal March’ and Four Quartets, through Beethoven, Nietzsche, and the Vienna Secession artists, is a hope for a future,” she concludes, “in which art, morality and spirituality are reconciled, and the transcendence of art becomes also an aesthetics of resistance.”

Max Klinger’s Beethoven (1902), Nietzsche’s Übermensch and the Anti-fascist Poetics of T.S. Eliot’s Coriolan I “Triumphal March” (1931) can be read in full with academic access here.

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TS Eliot Festival & Summer School dates for 2024 , January 2024

Dates have now been confirmed for the 2024 TS Eliot Festival and TS Eliot International Summer School.

The Annual TS Eliot Festival will be held at Little Gidding on Sunday 7th July 2024. Full details will follow when confirmed.

 

The TS Eliot International Summer School will run from 6th to 14th July 2024. For the first time this year, its lectures and seminars will be held at Merton College, Oxford, with most events taking place in the TS Eliot Theatre and meeting rooms. Its speakers, under Executive Director Professor Anthony Cuda, include such Eliot luminaries as Frances Dickey, Jeremy Diaper, Ron Schuchard, Megan Quigley and John Whittier-Ferguson. Full details of the programme, location, fees and scholarships are available now on their new website at https://tseliotschool.com/

Members of the TS Eliot Society UK can enjoy a discount on fees for the Summer School – details are in the Members Area.

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Frank Skinner on The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, January 2024

In the latest episode of Frank Skinner’s Poetry Podcast, the comedian and broadcaster examines The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.

Skinner describes Eliot as “a man not afraid of wearing his brain on his sleeve”, but is disappointed that many people see The Love Song as “a sort of gateway drug to The Waste Land…a ramp to the great epic. I think that is misusing The Love Song,” he says. “It’s brilliant in its own right and if I had to be pushed on it I probably love it more than The Waste Land.”

He draws some unusual comparisons, such as viewing The Waste Land as equivalent to the film version of the sit-com On The Buses, lacking the “tight precision” of the shorter version. “Can I really enforce this?” he asks. “I can and I have.”

His line-by-line analysis of the poem highlights the ways in which “even in the most lyrical, beautiful moments the ordinary keeps creeping in”, and he summarises the poem as “a battle between that inner part of us that reaches for poetry, and the world constantly dragging us back down to earth.”

And he confesses that he finds Eliot’s own readings as “kind of hilarious – I know it’s disrespectful to a poetic great but when I listen to him reading his own stuff I do sometimes laugh out loud.”

The 57-minute podcast can be heard here.

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AbeBooks’ second most expensive book was The Waste Land, January 2024

A First Edition of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land was the second most expensive book sold on AbeBooks in the latter half of 2023, selling for a remarkable £28,480.

“The book is bound in the publisher’s black cloth and is in great shape with minor wear to the boards,” read its description. “The binding is tight with no cocking or leaning and the boards are crisp. The pages are clean with no writing, marks or bookplates in the book. The original dustjacket is rich in color with minor repair”

AbeBooks, an ecommerce pioneer now a subsidiary of Amazon, lists millions of books and other objects for sale by thousands of sellers in more than fifty countries. “Our epic selection stretches from manuscripts created before the invention of the Gutenberg Press to the latest signed bestsellers.”

The most expensive book sold in this period? A deluxe edition of The Picture of Dorian Gray  signed by Oscar Wilde, which sold for £38,150.  The full list is here.

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‘Opening Day’ of the Emily Hale letters, January 2024

On the fourth anniversary of the unsealing of the Emily Hale letters, on 2nd January 2020, an article by Sara Fitzgerald recalls their opening day.  “I traveled to Princeton University Library for that day,” she writes, “a decision I have never regretted and a time I’m sure I will remember all my life.”

“‘Opening Day’ was a very cold morning,” she remembers, “but we were permitted to gather in the warmth of the library lobby before the Special Collections Room downstairs opened its locked doors an hour later.

“Initially there were six of us, all women, joined later in the day by two male reporters capturing inserts for stories in London newspapers. I was fourth in line, behind three Eliot scholars, including Lyndall Gordon, the first scholar to recognize Hale’s important role in Eliot’s work, and Frances Dickey, who planned to share details from the letters in blog posts for the International T. S. Eliot Society.”

She recalls the particular areas which she choose to research in the time available; and how work was interrupted by Covid, shutting down the library – and she looks forward to her forthcoming biography, The Silenced Muse: Emily Hale, T. S. Eliot and the Role of a Lifetime.

Her article can be read in full here; and essays by Sara Fitzgerald on aspects of Emily Hale are in the 2020, 2022 and 2023 editions of The Journal of the TS Eliot Society (UK).

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Eliot rarities and curiosities, January 2024

Blackwell’s Rare Books have issued a New Year list of over 30 items, including signed books, letters, limited editions and First Editions, relating to TS Eliot.

Highlights include signed copies of Murder In The Cathedral, Triumphal March, Animula and, unusually, a signed limited edition of Baudelaire’s Intimate Journals to which Eliot contributed an introduction.

There are also curiosities including a restaurant menu signed by Eliot, and a copy of Savonarola: A Dramatic Poem by his mother, Charlotte Eliot. The full list can be seen here.

 

 

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