Thomas Stearns Eliot, American-English poet, playwright, and literary critic, was the undisputed leader of the modernist movement in poetry. He had a noteworthy influence on Anglo-American culture in the decades following the First World War. English poetry was revitalised through his experiments in diction and versification. His literary criticism created the ambience for his poetry to be better understood. Indeed, without his critical essays guiding the readers, his ‘new’ poetry might not have been appreciated given the dominating literary standards of the preceding era.
No doubt a ‘difficult’ poet, with his polyglot quotations and imitations of other poets’ styles and techniques—all done with decided purpose—Eliot’s poems often require detailed annotations for the serious students to understand their subtle nuances. That his poems revealed several shades and layers of meaning is clear from the plethora of critical works on Eliot and his poetry, each offering fresh insights. The present compendium of critical interpretations of T.S. Eliot and some of his poems is the outcome of diligent and painstaking research spanning nearly a decade. No efforts have been spared to make the book of use to the student as well as the general reader.
The book is divided into three main sections. The first is an introduction to T.S. Eliot and his work and takes the reader over the life and times of the writer, the influences on his mind, and the thematic and stylistic features that render him a leader of the new trends in Anglo-American poetry. In the second section, the authors have critically discussed each poem selected for this intensive study from the point of view of theme and style and versification. Each poem has an introduction which details the sources and influences for it; the poem is then analysed and its thematic development traced; then comes the critical appraisal of the work—in which the intricacies of imagery, diction and versification, and its ‘meaning’ are elucidated. The third section gives extensive annotations for each of these poems with textual analysis of important passages. Critics’ views—so many and so varied—are incorporated, wherever necessary, to bring out all the better the many-faceted genius of Eliot.
It is, as said before, a comprehensive and in-depth study, which will, it is hoped, be of immense help to student and general reader alike, in understanding T.S. Eliot’s poems.
Suggestions to improve the work in any way will be welcome.