The Waste Land
The Crisis of Reading in Kafka and Eliot
The modern crisis of authority revolves around the recognition that current versions of traditional authority are no longer credible or reliable. Such a dramatic shift in perception cannot be effectively realized in the safe, florid writing of La Belle Epoch. When Franz Kafka and T. S. Eliot write about the modern crisis of authority, they communicate the idea through the very structure and nature of their new, unsettling styles of writing. The crisis is, to borrow a Freudian term, sublimated into the very essence of the works; that is, the manifest doubt and insecurity of the content becomes translated into the uncertain, insecure writing style. To be sure, Kafka and Eliot both explicitly present an authority crisis in "The Metamorphosis," "The Wasteland," and "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock." Kafka's bellicose Mr. Samsa illustrates the current decadence of authority figures, while Gregor's metamorphosis undermines the authority of the self. Eliot's pseudo-prophets (such as Tiresias, Mme. Sosostris, and Prufrock himself) present the collapse of truth and wisdom. Yet behind these characters, beneath the manifest anxiety and crisis of the content, there lies a stronger stylistic...
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