T.S. Eliot, Dante, and the European Tradition: An International Symposium
January 19th - 25th , 2008
  Promoted by:
Romualdo Del Bianco Foundation
Palazzo Coppini Via del Giglio, 10
50123 – Florence (Italy)


Author : Dr. Patrick Query

“That the Pattern May Subsist”: Eliot, Verse Drama, and the Mind of Europe

In a 1929 essay, Eliot wrote of Dante’s poetry, “What we should consider is not so much the meaning of the images, but the reverse process, that which led a man having an idea to express it in images.” A similar notion motivates this paper, namely: What we should consider is not the meaning of all of Eliot’s verse plays, but the reverse process, that which led a man having an idea of Europe to try to express it in dramatic verse. In the 1930s, although he continued to write poems, Eliot’s great concerns were the search for a workable modern drama in verse and for a revivification of European identity. I argue that as these two projects developed—and faltered—together, they brought Eliot as close to an articulation of the (then, as now) elusive unity in diversity as any modern European writer has come. The failure of either vision to materialize as Eliot hoped provides a small but useful point from which to reassess the relationship between writing and the European idea in the modern world.

Patrick Query is an Assistant Professor of English at the United States Military Academy in West Point, New York. He has published articles and chapters on W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, Evelyn Waugh, and Graham Greene, as well as numerous reviews. His recently completed book manuscript, entitled The Idea of Europe in Ritual and Writing, 1919-1939, deals with the ways in which British and Irish writers of the interwar years use verse drama, bullfighting, and Catholic ritual to explore ideas of European identity.

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