Gledhill, Sarah Jane (1976) The questioning of an absolute in the art of T.S. Eliot. Doctoral thesis, Keele University.

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Abstract

T. S. Eliot's Unitarian family background coupled with his interest in Idealism provided him with a particular view of life which invaded his early poetry and criticism. The intellectual climate at Harvard University during Eliot's undergraduate and postgraduate causes led him to undertake a detailed study of the philosophy of F. H. Bradley for a doctoral dissertation. The work did not leave Eliot uncritical of Bradley's thought and made him question Bradley's central concept of the Absolute. While Eliot detected certain specific limitations in Bradley's ideas, he like Bradley, found the need to assert an external reference point for understanding sense experience and thence a standpoint for criticism.
The comprehensive nature of Bradley's Absolute, as Eliot interpreted it, had close links with other poetic developments in England and Europe during the first two decades of the twentieth century. Eliot's particular interpretation of Bradley's philosophy found reinforcement in the ideas of Remy de Gourmont, James Joyce and Ezra Pound, and also in the Imagist movement. The concept of the Absolute provided Eliot with a significant creative principle and the preferences which Bradley's Idealism produced go far to explain Eliot's criticism of and dependence on the work of Matthew Arnold.
Since the background to Bradley's Absolute is theistic, the essentials of his Idealism contributed to Eliot's interest in Christianity. The change in his poetry after his acceptance into the Church of England in 1927 was marked. Moreover the aesthetic principle suggested by the Absolute is not found to be such a powerfully creative influence after Eliot became a Christian.
The development of Eliot's art may be seen as an exploration of the potential afforded by Bradley's Absolute, and a questioning of the adequacy of that concept, which inspired so mu.ch of his early work, but later could not contain the different order of experience that came from Christian belief.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Additional Information: For access to the hard copy thesis, check the University Library catalogue.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Humanities
Depositing User: Lisa Bailey
Date Deposited: 09 May 2019 09:09
Last Modified: 27 May 2019 15:32
URI: http://eprints.keele.ac.uk/id/eprint/6298

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