2015 Reprint of Original 1920 Edition. Exact facsimile of the original edition, not reproduced with Optical Recognition Software. Published in 1920, "The Sacred Wood" solidified T.S. Eliot's status as one of the preeminent critical voices of his generation. Containing the canonical "Tradition and the Individual Talent" as well as essays on Ben Johnson, Swinburne, and others, the collection shows Eliot working through a number of his most pressing critical interests: the necessary and inviolable bond between past and present ...
2015 Reprint of Original 1920 Edition. Exact facsimile of the original edition, not reproduced with Optical Recognition Software. Published in 1920, "The Sacred Wood" solidified T.S. Eliot's status as one of the preeminent critical voices of his generation. Containing the canonical "Tradition and the Individual Talent" as well as essays on Ben Johnson, Swinburne, and others, the collection shows Eliot working through a number of his most pressing critical interests: the necessary and inviolable bond between past and present literary achievement; the need for criticism that carefully attends to the integrity of a work of art, its essential relation of part to whole; and the concepts of poetic impersonality and the objective correlative. The central essay in "The Sacred Wood" is "Tradition and the Individual Talent." Most fascinating in an initial reading of this essay is Eliot's circling, complex definition of literary tradition. It is not, he claims, a dead collection of writings by dead poets, "a lump, an indiscriminate bolus"; neither is it a body of work from which a few personal favorites can be chosen as exemplars of excellence. Instead, it is a complete order, an organic body in which each part (individual poem) relates to and derives its significance from its place in the whole (tradition). Contents: Introduction -- The perfect critic -- Imperfect critics: Swinburne as critic, A romantic aristocrat, The local flavour, A note on the American critic, The French intelligence -- Tradition and the individual talent -- The possibility of a poetic drama -- Euripides and Professor Murray -- "Rhetoric" and poetic drama -- Notes on the blank verse of Christopher Marlowe -- Hamlet and his problems -- Ben Jonson -- Philip Massinger -- Swinburne as poet -- Blake -- Dante.
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Some of the essays are dated, important for the early 20th century, but addressing works of some authors seldom read today, such as Murray?s translation of Euripides; minor critics Charles Whibley, George Wyndham, and Paul More; and the dramatist Massinger. Even so, there are important ideas to extract from these essays as Eliot sets forth the ideas proper for the critic. The critic was not yet so well established as today, as most critics gave their impressions ? their tastes ? such as reader?s response reviews give today.
As important as the subject of poetic drama is to Eliot ? he has several more essays on the subject, written later and published in his Selected Prose Works ? it strikes me as dated also. The ?Possibility of a Poetic Drama? was small then; it is infinitesimal today.
Eliot?s essays on Elizabethan drama, including commentary on Shakespeare, Marlowe, Ben Jonson, and Kyd, are useful to Elizabethan scholarship today. Though it is an essay on Rostand?s Cyrano, the definition of rhetoric as used by Elizabethans is important.
The most important essay, today, and probably the most anthologized is ?Tradition and the Individual Talent.? It is vital for every writer to read. As Eliot was a poet, more than the scholar, he writes for those who write. In this essay he comments on how every new poet?s work affects the whole tradition of poetry, and how the tradition affects the new poet. The poet should consider their own work in historical context.
There are many great quotes to use, so many I could not paraphrase because they are no better said. The few that stand out, related to criticism, are statements that became standards among New Critics:
?The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality.? 47
?A literary critic should have no emotions except those immediately provoked by the work of art....? 11
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