American Literature: T.S. Eliot
In delineation, American literature encompasses the written literary works generated within the United States as well as its former colonies. Conventional American literature derives its attributes from the literary tradition within English literature. Nonetheless, a broader description of American literature gains considerable illustration from the reputable poet and playwright, Thomas Stearns Eliot, commonly referred to as T.S. Eliot. Most of the works authored by T.S. Eliot provider an intimate description especially regarding the rise of the Modernist Movement, which marked a revolutionary change in American literature. Literary compositions such as The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock (1915), The Waste Land (1922), Ash Wednesday (1930) and Four Quartets (1945), depicted the proficiency of T.S Eliot as a modernist. Nonetheless, T.S Eliot’s status as an American author provides a critical look regarding his works as American literature with reference to literary movements within that period.
On a much broader context, American literature gained an American status based on the rise of unique American literary compositions that displayed an exclusive American culture. For instance, the introduction of satire and humor compositions such as A History of New York, by Diedrich Knickerbocker and Salmagundi by Washington Irving made American literature, American based on the unique American styles they integrated. Writers such as William Cullen Bryant authored poetry based on romance and nature that advanced away from their European derivation. Furthermore, short stories that explored human psychology, mystery and fantasy such as The Masque of the Red Death, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Fall of the House of the Usher and The Murders in the Rue Morgue by Edgar Allan Poe further established American literature due to their extension of mystery and fantasy (Burt, 201).
Nonetheless, the writings of T.S. Eliot as an American author received critical acclamation with respect to the early Modernist Movement. Since much of the Modernist literature implied considerably on poetry, it is understandable why Eliot’s poems played a fundamental role in the Modernist Movement. The introduction of the Modernist Movement further provided the context for the description of Eliot’s works as American. This is because the movement was actually a reaction against Victorian Poetry, which was mainly a constituent of English literature. Victorian Poetry integrated conventional formalism and complicated articulation and was therefore inaccessible and incomprehensible to the ordinary person. As such, the modernists reacted to such facets of Victorian poetry by introducing the aspect of imagery in poetry.
However, the main influence leading to a further extension of the Modernist Movement concerned the aftermath of the First World War. The war focused on the demoralizing the Imagists’ sanguinity since most modernist poets such as David Jones and Wilfred Owen expressed negative sentiments regarding this war. Nevertheless, the authoring of The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T.S. Eliot propelled the Modernist Movement based on its illustration of disillusionment within the conscious character of a man. Furthermore, the release of The Waste Land by Eliot further propagated the Modernist Movement through its depiction of the dissolution of Eliot’s private life and psychological constancy as well as the surrounding culture. In addition, Eliot’s The Waste Land provided a source for modernism based on its illustration of Imagism within modernism (Miller, 387). This is because the fragmented, broken and apparently disparate portions of imagery conjoin to create a disconnective anti-narrative.
Nonetheless, further placement of Eliot’s work within the context of American literature receives indication in the manner that the style Eliot used in his poetic compositions illustrated the aspect of modernism. Foremost, Eliot utilized the collage technique in most of his compositions. The collage technique was an aspect of the Modernist Movement since it emphasized on the use of imagery to develop coherence within poetry. The collage technique that Eliot used involved the creation of fragments that gained construction into a single disjunctive composition. Furthermore, Eliot’s collage technique involved articulating a montage of images significantly within his composition. Furthermore, the work structured within Eliot’s compositions indicated a pursuit to discover the coherence that was invisible on the composition’s surface.
In addition, as implied before, the Modernist Movement arose during the inception of the First World War (Paddock, 106). The First World War also played a part in influencing Eliot’s American literature style. The harmony once indicated within other poets and literary artists within their literal compositions was a factor that was absent in Eliot’s works. This revolves back to the aspect of fragmentation, which marked the creation of discontinuity within Eliot’s poems. Interestingly, the First World War destroyed the harmony expressed by literary artists and thus undermined such literature leading to disillusionment and discontinuity in literature. Nonetheless, Eliot took advantage of the discontinuity by writing his poems in a disjunctive manner.
The element of discontinuity marked a considerable step in the Modernist Movement. This is in accordance with the styles of writing integrated within modernist literary compositions. With respect to Eliot, the elements integrated within his poems involved aspects such as omission of various formalities that received considerable integration within English literature. Eliot’s poems comprised the omission of interpretations regarding his compositions. The poems also inculcated the omissions of explanations as well as relationships further leading to the development of a distorted anti-narrative. Furthermore, Eliot’s poems inculcated the omission of summaries as well as continuity and as such, fragmented the various sections within his poems. Furthermore, his poems articulated an arbitrary introduction that seemed capricious, advancements that did not contain explanations as well as illogical conclusions that lacked resolution.
Irrespective of the absent mention of influential factors that shaped American literature, it is evident that several factors influenced the manner in which Eliot’s American style of literature. Even though factors such as the Puritan customs and the American Frontier shaped American literature, it is evident that the main factors leading to the shaping of American literature with respect to T.S. Eliot were Romanticism and Realism. Romanticism involved embracing an aspect of imagination. This is evident within Eliot’s poems, which highlight a considerable degree of abandonment of literary customs. As evidenced, Eliot’s poems marked a stray from Victorian poetry through imagism and accepting experimentation (Paddock, 100). Furthermore, the aspect of emotion within Romanticism also influenced Eliot’s literature based on the manner he expressed his mental stability and feelings of solitude by considering such feelings as means to identify and experience reality. Realism, on the other hand, contributed to Eliot’s assertions of Christianity as a myth in accordance to the support for atheism by realism (Paddock, 111).
In conclusion, much debate encompasses the status of T.S. Eliot as American or English. Nonetheless, most of the poems structured by Eliot comprise a similar English background that further allowed polishing his skills. Nonetheless, it is also evident that his American background proves supreme especially with his adoption of Modernist style of poetry as well as the considerable influence of romanticism and realism in the overall American literature.
Burt, Daniel S. The Chronology of American Literature: America’s Literary Achievements from the Colonial Era to Modern Times. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2004. Print.
Miller, James E. T.S. Eliot: The Making of an American Poet, 1888-1922. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2005. Print.
Paddock, Lisa. Encyclopedia of American Literature: The Age of Romanticism and Realism, 1815-1914. New York: Facts on File, 2002. Print.