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ADD IN POINTS FROM THE MODERNISM NOTES FROM THE WORKBOOK

MODERNITY
- Eliot, like most modernists, expressed through his poetic form criticism of the modern
world’s rejection of traditional ways and its rapidly changing values, specifically
focusing criticism on the impact of these changes on the lives of working class people
and its implication for social behaviours and morality.
- the city becomes the locus where modern man is microscopically focused on and
dissected. In the final analysis, the city becomes a "cruel devourer", a cemetery for lost
souls.
- For Eliot, modern life is insecure, fragmented and illogical, characteristics which he
reflects in his poetic style.
- The stability and quietude of Victorian civilization were rapidly becoming a thing of the
past.
- The modernists concurred with Nietzsche that art had degenerated because it was too
concerned with the rules of form and not enough with the creative energies that lie
underneath the surface.
- The first characteristic associated with modernism is nihilism, the rejection of all religious
and moral principles as the only means of obtaining social progress - Eliot had an issue
with this.

The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock


- disenchantment with society
- individuals engage in a desperate search for meaning and truth amidst a disillusioned
world of social anxiety

The Hollow Men


- the scenes of decay in ‘The Hollow Man’ are Eliot’s reflections on the world in which he
resides
- society lacking in culture, faith, humanity, morality and religion
- modernity makes human beings self-centered, money minded and hungry only to fulfil
their own desires
- modernity has made people empty of purpose inside, without a sense of drive and
momentum;

The Journey of the Magi


- there is no longer just one written truth (story told not from Christ’s perspective, but from
the Magi.
- Opportunity to discuss a ‘new’ feature of Modernist poetry: questions the previous
‘Victorian’ narrator’s perspective)

Rhapsody on a Windy Night


- Characters are holding out for the promise of transcendence, but have grown feeble and
lost memories and connection with human culture
- The speaker lets his memory synthesize unconsciously and spontaneously

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Preludes
- Modern life can be difficult, but if you live longer you get used to its difficulties; the joy of
life lost in the modern world;
- Eliot’s modernist worldview is revealed through his representation of the world as a
bleak and superficial place, devoid of culture and personal fulfilment
- the rottenness, the corruption and decadence of contemporary society is exposed with a
rare poignancy here; meaningless society; rootlessness of modern life
- Eliot portrays the metaphysical emptiness of men in modern metropolis. However he is
determined to redeem the soul like, though It looks like a vain attempt to do so.
- There is a fear that humanity has become as cold and empty as the concrete buildings
that surround it.

ISOLATION AND ALIENATION


- Eliot’s work explores how the competing demands of labour and social expectation
ultimately isolates individuals due to these competing demands.
- The voices established in Eliot’s poems reflect a struggle with their personal identity and
place within society. Widespread changes during the early 20th Century lead many
individuals to feel their lives were characterised by uncertainty.
- The individual has come to inhabit a world where he is insignificant, and his feelings or
opinions absurd.

Preludes
- The suffering associated with a lack of identity and alienation
- Though they are silent and not complaining, the inhabitants of the poem are all suffering
- The decrepit state of the urban setting means lives and living situations are
impoverished; however, it is the soul of the human being which is truly impoverished
and suffering
- Material preoccupations overwhelm them, resulting in a sense of distance and
extrapolation from other people, preventing them from noticing each other's humanity
anymore - a truly profound form of suffering.
- Individual alienation from one’s Self and from human fellowship
- No one is able to change their alienation

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock


- Eliot addresses the plight of individuals who feel out of place in the modern world
- Prufrock seeks bonds with women, among other things, but fails completely, resulting in
a sense of alienation - of which he cannot alter

Rhapsody on a Windy Night


- Emphasises the isolation and alienation and the depths of despair to which humanity fell
because of World War 1.

The Hollow Man


-

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The Journey of the Magi
- Fragmentation (form and language) illustrate the helplessness and isolation experienced
by the voice of the poem, caught between two different worlds and belonging completely
to neither.

ENTROPY AND DECAY


- Like most Modernists, Eliot perceived the structures of the traditional world and human
relationships as breaking down and being in a state of decline, on a societal level, as
well as within the human mind.
- Eliot perceived the structures of the modern world as being responsible for personal
relationships breaking down and for inducing society and individuals into a state of
decay.
- Eliot believed the modern world led to psychological degradation and paralysis.

Rhapsody on a Windy Night


- A Society decaying – a shell of its former self
- Coupled with these striking images of isolation are images that speak of decay and
disuse. Does Eliot suggest that our social fabric is disintegrating, needs repair – is
perhaps beyond repair?
- No positive images or vitality in the persona’s world
- The first human the reader encounters is a social outcast – a madman.
- The woman’s dress is “torn and stained with sand”, and her eye ‘twists like a crooked
pin’. There is a’ crowd of twisted things’, including a broken spring (that symbol of
resilience), of which he recalls that “rust clings to the form that the strength has left.”
- That is a most enduring image of a society sapped of moral and physical energy.

Preludes
- A bleak vision of a declining society, one in a state of decay
- In the ruins of culture and civilization which we find ourselves in (in c1920), we may as
well not bother to seek meaning, because there is none left; a ‘burnt out’ society

The Hollow Man


- Test

MELANCHOLIA/DEPRESSION
- Eliot’s work represents the The Damaged Psyche of Humanity
- Modernism coincided with the formation of psychiatry and psychoanalysis. These fields
explored how the individual’s psychological struggles with existence in the modern world
became even more fraught due to the trauma of the Great War.
- Eliot was concerned with the disintegration of life and mental stability caused by the
onset of the modern era.

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- The modernists encountered challenges of a new front; with the façades and pretenses
of the humanistic ideals of previous ages having fallen apart, there remained an anxiety
of facing the emptiness of the human “Being”.

The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock


- Prufrock’s alienation and isolation drive him into melancholia;

Preludes
- The narrator mourns for his society - a lost and soulless urban society

The Hollow Men


- Display cultural transformations of the first half of the 20th century, in particular a
dramatic change of gender relations after World War I, which inevitably led to sexual
dislocation and masculinity crises.
- Men have failed

The Journey of the Magi


-

Rhapsody on a Windy Night


-

RELATIONSHIPS
- Eliot’s poetry reveals how individuals struggle to form meaningful relationships with
themselves, their peers and their society
- The characters in Eliot’s poetry struggle with their relationships with others.
- They fail to connect properly, or have failed relationships because of their competing
expectations.

Preludes
- Lack of relationships with self, others and the world drives one to depression

The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock


- Lack of relationships with self, others and the world drives one to depression

GENDER
- Eliot’s canon represents a struggle to come to terms with changing societal values
concerning gender; his views are conflicting: on one hand he is fascinated by increasing
feminine sexual freedom, but repealed by it at the same time. Eliot explores how these
larger societal changes lead to his male characters wrestle with their masculinity.
- Eliot’s poetry depicts the changes in gender roles and gender hierarchy as worrisome
and reprehensible.
- Eliot finds it especially troublesome that women’s association with physicality has
increased. Modernity seems to worsen the link between women and their bodies due to

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the indulgence in materialistic pleasures, the fascination with physical appearance and
the revealing nature of women’s fashion.
- As depicted in Eliot’s poetry, modern urban life takes its toll on masculinity. As the
female body becomes a symbol of the modern, men complain of the influence of
feminine culture over their lives.

The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock:


- Sexual frustration and unfulfilled desires
- Women’s liberation from patriarchal dominance was more imagined than real because
many aspects of female physicality remained unimproved.
- New ‘freedoms’ women enjoyed were often exploited by both sexes.
- With the rise of industrial capitalism and materiality, women’s bodies have become
commodities.
- As the early twentieth century urban culture glorified appearance and sensuality, women
have become more plunged into corporeality rather than freed of it.

The Hollow Men


- Diminishment of the American man
- The struggle for meaning and expression
- the Hollow Men’s loss of purpose and identity comes from a breakdown in
communication with each other and within their own internal selves, as well as a sense
of isolation within society
- Fragmented surface of the poem reflects the unsettled consciousness of a postwar
world, and in particular that of an embattled masculinity
- Cultural transformations, in particular a dramatic change of gender relations after World
War I, inevitably led to sexual dislocation and masculinity crises
- Mirrors the world post-war trauma, physical and spiritual sterility, emotional chaos, lack
of human ties and communication, devaluation of honor, moral principles and social
standards
- An individual’s search for identity, authentic experience and order in the face of social,
political and cultural bedlam of the Jazz Age

TIME
- Modernists were obsessed with time
- Time is experienced subjectively; it seems to pass at different speeds at different times.
- Individuals feel they have all the time in the world only to discover that time has passed
too quickly.
- Eliot’s work explores the implications of the march of time and unavoidable nature of
death and how one’s impending mortality affects one’s sense of self and worldview.

Rhapsody on a Windy Night


- Bergson’s attempts at defining the nature of past, present, and future and Eliot’s
attitudes towards the ‘present’

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- Time moves on relentlessly
- What we identify as the present is formed by sensations deriving from the past and
actions directed towards the future.

The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock


- Narrator expresses an equally unhappy relation to time and space - his context or ‘lot;

Preludes
- Jumps from night to morning to midday and then it makes an even bigger jump: back in
time.
- No matter when the poem settles, the conclusion is the same: life has always been
rough. You could set this poem forward or backwards 100 years, implies the speaker,
and it wouldn't change much.
- Humanity will always face bleak times. It's just that some of them have more distractions
than others.

CYCLES
- Like many Modernists, Eliot perceived, and represented, history as being prone to the
repetition of the same mistakes.
- He also observed modernity’s rejection of the natural life cycle of the body and its
emphasis on youthful and changeless bodies

Preludes
- Things don’t change, the world keeps turning, things largely remain constant.
- There seems to be little escape from the everyday urban life of drudgery: you get up,
you go to work, you come home, you sleep (or try to), you do it all again the next day.

SELF-DOUBT
Eliot observed isolation and alienation within the rapidly modernising urban society of the early
20th Century. Eliot sought to demonstrate how, in a world brutalised by conflict and cut adrift
from its previously certain foundations, an individual becomes prone to angst and a rising sense
of self-doubt in their quest for direction and meaning.

The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock


- Personal insecurities and inner doubts; concerned about failing at relationships
- Fearful of other’s perceptions of ‘self identity’
- Insecurity stands in the way of meaningful connections with others
- Insecure feelings about masculinity

Journey of the Magi


- Composed after conversion to Anglican faith
- Allusion to Matthew 2: 1-12;
- Personal insecurities and inner doubts on a journey to ‘find’ the Christ child;

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RELIGION
- A close examination of Eliot’s poetic achievements would shed light on Eliot’s gradual
absorption of spiritual faith.
- Eliot was lost because the world was ‘desacralised’ and had lost the spiritual dimension
of the human experience, with life and humanity only seen in scientific or rational terms.
- After a long process of contemplation, Eliot’s quest ends with a recognition that faith is
Man’s only way out, but it is lost and should be regained, and this is the ultimate goal of
the religious odyssey that Eliot’s poetry aims at pursuing.
- Eliot's personal relationship with religion heavily influences the text
- Eliot maintained a tumultuous relationship with faith
- It had become difficult to maintaining faith in modern society.
- Eliot’s poetry delineates a mental process that takes the reader from the inferno of
contemporary life to the purgatory of religious faith which is potentially capable of lifting
Man before falling into the abyss of loss.
- Implied that modern civilization is nothing but soulless materialism which offers no
anchor, no crutch and that it betrays those who rely on its efficacy and, most likely, they
will shrivel to nothing but a dreary realm of paralysis and formlessness
- Represents stages of spiritual awareness which start with a decaying, ‘modern’ world
and develops into an unavoidable acknowledgement of uprootedness and spiritual
metamorphosis of a civilization reduced into brokenness

The Lovesong of J Alfred Prufrock


- Loss of faith in the world leads to psychological decline

Preludes
- Blackness = Sin
- Human Suffering is evident and could be a reminder of the suffering of Christ to redeem
the sins of humanity.
- There is a not of compassion and a tentative movement towards religious belief.
- Religious vision is mockingly brushed aside but is not entirely obliterated
- Cynicism towards religion suggests nostalgia for an absent ideal

The Hollow Men


- Suggests a ‘lost world’ in which humanity is cut adrift and now responsible for our own
destinies, evident in Eliot's extensive use of fragmented incantatory prose and epiphanic
religious symbolism in his writing
- Binaries (wet and dry, desert and garden) are metaphors of the human spiritual
condition.
- Ideas of spiritual redemption and hope, and how highlights the modern disconnection
from any sense of a true connection from God by looking at the voices and silences of
the various speakers who appear to guide or beguile the unwary

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- All religion have lost their meaning; aridity of life without faith, an aridity that finally
echoes with sickening horror and despair in" The Hollow Men" ;
- The intertextual reference to Conrad’s novel highlights a resonance between the texts:
like Kurtz, the hollow men are the embodiment of a society which has significantly
reduced the status of religion, and by doing so, it has lost its bearings
- Society has left men in a state of ‘limbo’ or purgatory
- These men live in both this life and life in the hereafter at one and the same time
- Implied that modern civilisation is nothing but soulless materialism which offers no
anchor, no crutch and that it betrays those who rely on its efficacy and, most likely, they
will shrivel to nothing but a dreary realm of paralysis and formlessness

Journey of the Magi


- Eliot's personal relationship with religion heavily influences this text. Having just
converted from Catholicism to Anglicanism, Eliot transposes his own tumultuous
relationship with faith to the Nativity setting of the poem.
- Ends up well, completes journey but it is not necessarily a satisfactory one