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Durham e-Theses
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T.S. Eliot and the music of poetry

Frendo, Maria (1999) T.S. Eliot and the music of poetry. Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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Abstract

This thesis is a study of T.S. Eliot's poetry in the light of the different ways in which it can be considered 'musical'. Two concerns central to the thesis are: (1) Eliot's enduring interest in the musical quality of poetry; (2) the critical usefulness and viability of drawing analogies between his poetry and music. The thesis considers three important related topics: (1) Eliot's preoccupation with language, its inevitability and its inadequacy; (2) the figure of the seeker in his poetry; (3) his interest in mysticism. The thesis begins by exploring affinities between music and literature in the context of Wagner’s ideal of the 'Gesamtkunstwerk' and its influence on French Symbolist writers. It goes on to trace the development of T.S. Eliot's poetic style as influenced by the French Symbolist poets, by Dante and the mediaeval mystics, and by the music of Wagner, Stravinsky and other composers. Throughout, Eliot's poetry presents variations on the theme of detachment and involvement in relation to the figure of the seeker: consciousness is most engaged and challenged when it journeys. In the early poetry, music serves to emphasize failed relationships: the closer the physical proximity between protagonists, the greater the psychological distance. From The Waste Land on, Eliot makes use of myth and leitmotif to portray consciousness in the role of seeker urged on by the need for meaning. After his conversion to Anglo-Catholicism in 1927, Eliot's characters embark on a journey inward, where music, now "unheard", no longer signifies neurosis and despair, but becomes the only language for the ineffable.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Thesis Date:1999
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:13 Sep 2012 15:47

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