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 : Prof. Jewel Spears Brooker

Enlarging Immediate Experience: Bradley and Dante in Eliot’s Aesthetic

T. S. Eliot’s career began with a struggle between philosophy and poetry. The agon featured F. H. Bradley, whose thought was the subject of his Ph.D. thesis, and Dante, whose work informed his earliest poetry, notably “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and the unpublished notebook poems. Eliot’s most detailed discussion of the connection between philosophy and poetry is contained in his 1926 Clark Lectures at Cambridge University, published as Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry. He defines the “philosophic poet” in Bradleyean terms as one who “enlarges immediate experience” by “drawing within the orbit of feeling and sense what had existed only in thought” VMP 55, 51). Philosophic poetry is work of the “highest intensity, in which the thought is ... fused into poetry at a very high temperature” (VMP 50). Eliot argues that Dante’s poetry perfectly exemplifies the integration of thought and feeling. In this paper, I shall explore Eliot’s link between Bradley and Dante, his claims for Dante’s verse, and his attempt to model his own verse after Dante’s. Eliot’s Cambridge lectures, significantly, occurred at a turning point in his life, immediately before his conversion to Anglo-Catholicism,itself an event pointing to his landmark essay on Dante and his openly Dantean sequence Ash-Wednesday.

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