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Durham e-Theses
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A Buddhist Reading of T. S. Eliot's Poetry

XIAO, CHUTIAN (2020) A Buddhist Reading of T. S. Eliot's Poetry. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Author-imposed embargo until 03 March 2023.

Abstract

This thesis, while revealing connections and affinities between T. S. Eliot’s poetry and Buddhism, reads Eliot’s major poems from the perspective of Buddhism. It provides an up-to-date Buddhist reading of Eliot’s poetry, by drawing on unpublished poems, essays, letters, and lecture notes by Eliot. The introduction discusses the place of Buddhism in Eliot’s poetry, especially in relation to Christianity. It also reviews existing scholarship on the relationship between Eliot and Buddhism and clarifies the methodology of this thesis accordingly. The introduction then offers a brief history of Eliot’s Buddhist learning as well as a summary of each chapter. Chapter 1 tackles the first major poem by Eliot, ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’, comparing it with Edwin Arnold’s The Light of Asia. By doing so, Chapter 1 presents Prufrock’s struggle as a preparation for a spiritual journey towards salvation. Chapter 2 explores four major poems in Eliot’s first collection Prufrock and Other Observations, namely ‘Portrait of a Lady’, ‘Preludes’, ‘Rhapsody on a Windy Night’, and ‘La Figlia Che Piange’. It explores how these poems respond to the dichotomy of the body and the soul, by referring to Rudyard Kipling’s Kim and modern Buddhist theory of reincarnation. Chapter 3 analyses The Waste Land by focusing on the reincarnation of the inner waste land in humanity. Chapter 4 focuses on the relationship between worldly phenomena and the timeless reality in Eliot’s religious poetry. It also clarifies the place of Buddhism in Eliot’s religious scheme of salvation. From Chapter 5 to Chapter 8, each poem in Eliot’s Four Quartets is examined, in order to present in detail the significance of Buddhism to Eliot’s spiritual quest and how a Buddhist perspective may assist in understanding Eliot’s poetic sensibility in his later poetry. The conclusion offers suggestions for further research which this thesis may lead to, especially on potential connections between Eliot’s dramatic works and Buddhism, and on the reincarnation of Eliot’s poetic spirit in later poets.


Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:T. S. Eliot, poetry, religion, Buddhism
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2020
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:04 Mar 2020 10:57

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