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Approaching Mid-Term. Study Guide Victorianism to Modernism How to read a poem T.S. Eliot, background The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock Fitzgerald (overview) and preparing for Gatsby . Victorianism. Late 1800s to World War I . Pre-Modernist/Modernist. Advances in technology

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approaching mid term
Approaching Mid-Term

Study Guide

Victorianism to Modernism

How to read a poem

T.S. Eliot, background

The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock

Fitzgerald (overview) and preparing for Gatsby


Late 1800s to World War I

pre modernist modernist

Advances in technology

World War I, World War II


Media and wide-spread knowledge distribution


The term modernism refers to the radical shift in aesthetic and cultural sensibilities in art and literature after World War I.

The ordered, stable and inherently meaningful world view of the nineteenth century could not, wrote T.S. Eliot, accord with “the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history.’.. rejecting nineteenth-century optimism, [modernists] presented a profoundly pessimistic picture of a culture in disarray.”


Modernism (an introduction to the time)

Eliot (and other poets of this movement)

how to read poetry
How to Read Poetry

You have a handout on “how to read poetry”**

Reading at this level requires writing



Take nothing at face value

Take risks

t s eliot

T.S. Eliot


  • BIRTH:
    • Thomas Stearns Eliot
    • September 26, 1888 in Missouri
    • attended Harvard University
    • left with a masters and undergraduate degrees.
    • returned to Harvard to receive a Phd in philosophy

Toured the continent after Harvard

1915 married first wife, Vivienne Haigh-Wood

1917 began working at Lloyd’s bank in London

1925 left the bank to work at a publishing firm

1927 converted to Anglicanism, dropped U.S. citizenship, became a British subject

1933 separated from Vivienne

  • 1948 won Nobel prize
  • 1957 married Esme Valerie Fletcher
    • Had been his secretary at the publishing house since 1949
    • 37 years his junior (he was nearly 70; she was 32)
    • Preserved his literary legacy after Eliot’s death
  • In 1965, he died of emphysema in London at the age of seventy-seven
  • 1983 won two posthumous Tony Awards for “Cats”
  • Eliot’s theories about modern poetry are enacted in his work:
    • his writing exemplifies not only modernity, but also the modernist mode
    • it seeks to put the reader off balance so as to capture the incoherence and dislocations of a bewildering age.
      • the modern individual is “no longer at ease here”
        • he has witnessed the birth of something new and unprecedented, and finds the change to be a “[h]ard and bitter agony”
      • he also attempts to counteract its disorderliness:
        • bringing disparate elements into some sort of conceptual unity.
        • “The poet’s mind is in fact a receptacle for seizing and storing up numberless feelings, phrases, images, which remain there until all the particles which can unite to form a new compound are present together”
aesthetic views
Aesthetic Views

A poem should be an organic thing in itself, a made object

Once it is finished, the poet will no longer have control of it

It should be judged, analyzed by itself without the interference of the poet’s personal influence and intentional elements and other elements

reflection of life
Reflection of Life:
  • Modern life is chaotic, futile, fragmentary
    • Eliot argues that modern poetry “must be difficult” to match the intricacy of modern experience.
    • poetry should reflect this fragmentary nature of life:
    • “ The poet must become more and more comprehensive, more allusive, more indirect, in order to force, to dislocate if necessary, language into his meaning”
  • this nature of life should be projected, not analyzed
prufrock reading
Prufrock Reading

style technique
  • disconnected images/symbols
  • literary allusions/references
    • Sometimes VERY obscure!!!
  • highly expressive meter
  • rhythm of free verses
  • metaphysical whimsical images/whims
  • flexible tone
  • The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock
    • love
    • indecision
    • Powerlessness, impotence
    • Stream-of-consciousness
    • The impotence and sterility of the modern world; cultural fragmentation
    • disaffected sexual relationships in the modern, faithless world
    • The disrupted cycles of:
      • death and regeneration
      • decay and growth;
    • the possibility of spiritual and aesthetic unity:
      • through religious belief and mythic structure;