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T. S. Eliot and the Implications of Laforgue and Corbière

EVANS, SUZANNAH,VICTORIA (2022) T. S. Eliot and the Implications of Laforgue and Corbière. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis investigates T. S. Eliot’s creative dialogue with two nineteenth-century French poets, Jules Laforgue and Tristan Corbière. In particular, it focuses on Eliot’s prolonged engagement with the avant-garde techniques pioneered by Laforgue, examining their presence and influence not only in his early poetry, above all in his debut collection Prufrock and Other Observations, but continuing in his next collection Poems (1920), and then in the composition of his most celebrated and analysed work The Waste Land. This study therefore challenges the received critical consensus that Eliot discarded Laforgue’s example after his first volume.

This thesis takes an innovative approach to the study of poetic influence, moving beyond the tabulation of allusions, echoes, and source texts, to a holistic consideration of the effects of rhythm, syntax, diction, tone, and soundscapes, by means of a critical method of ‘close listening’. As a consequence, comparative readings of poetic language developed throughout this thesis demonstrate a deeper engagement with the poetry of Laforgue and Corbière than existing Eliot Studies. Throughout, the research findings are underpinned by recent scholarship and a first-hand familiarity with French material that were unavailable to previous critics. This thesis also gives new importance to Corbière’s marine poetry in the writing of The Waste Land, examining why Eliot frequently linked Corbière and Laforgue as ‘metaphysical poets’, while at the same time differentiating their influences as distinct. Ultimately, this thesis argues that these two poets shaped Eliot’s conception of poetry at the most profound and enduring level, illuminating his sense not only of what a poem could do, but how it could sound, transforming, in the process, modernist poetry.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Arts and Humanities > English Studies, Department of
Thesis Date:2022
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:06 Sep 2022 16:52

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