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Christian doctrine in the poetry of T. S. Eliot and W. H. Auden: an investigation of the religious ideas of these writers in relation to modern sensibility

Horne, B. L. (1967) Christian doctrine in the poetry of T. S. Eliot and W. H. Auden: an investigation of the religious ideas of these writers in relation to modern sensibility. Masters thesis, Durham University.

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Abstract

This thesis investigates the differing ways in which the Christian religion finds expression in the poetry of two modern, avowedly Christian, poets. The discussion centres upon the ways in which the two cardinal Christian doctrines – Incarnation and Atonement – are apprehended, and examines the distinctive relation each poet bears to the religious sensibility of the twentieth century. Auden’s understanding of the Christian vision of life and his grasp on the essential connection between the fundamental doctrine prove, on close comparative examination, to be fuller and surer than Eliot’s. The first two chapters deal with the relation between religious and artistic values – primarily in the theological and poetic developments of the present century must be understood. The following three chapters trace in Eliot’s poetry his changing attitudes to man’s condition and his destiny. Because of a distinctive preoccupation with metaphysical problems of Time and Reality, the Christian beliefs of the later poetry revolve around the single doctrine of the Incarnation by which Eternal and Temporal, Supernatural and Natural are united. Chapter Six briefly examines the plays, in which a largely unsuccessful attempt is made at conveying the meaning of sin and atonement. By contrast, Auden’s work, even in its early stages, shows a concern with the immediate human experience of self-contradiction and guilt, conflict and suffering. Consequently his Christian faith is characterised by an emphasis on the transformation of this condition by the sacrificial act known as the Atonement. Nonetheless, the absolute interdependence of Atonement and Incarnation is clearly expressed, so that Auden’s work, though frequently inferior, poetically, to Eliot’s, at times embodies the Christian vision with a fullness that Eliot’s never achieved. The concluding chapter outlines current theological trends and the ways in which the two poets reflect the distinctive sensibility of the present century.

Item Type:Thesis (Masters)
Award:Master of Letters
Thesis Date:1967
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:14 Mar 2014 16:37

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