T.S. Eliot: Prose

A Historical Approach to T.S. Eliot and his Theory of Tradition in Creative Writing

To understand T.S. Eliot as a writer, one must look at his own view of creative writing and his passion for tradition. Eliot’s idea of tradition can be misinterpreted: “Most often it is perceived as a smug and pompous intransigence to change…backward-looking traditionalism, self-satisfied with the way things have been and oppose to any idea of change”(Shusterman, 156). However, “closer study will reveal that Eliot saw tradition as requiring constant criticism and alteration with the aim of developing it and orienting it toward the future”(Shusterman, 157). This passion for tradition is reflected in a number of his essays and creative works. “Tradition in its ultimate designation, consists in the timeless order that comprehends all the necessary parts and from which each part derives its significance”(Lu, 83). To Eliot, tradition is essential to any poet’s work.

In Eliot’s essay Tradition and the Individual Talent, he outlines a term that will be indispensable in any work of art to follow. He defines “the historical sense” as a connection between the new poet and all the poets to precede him or her; “a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and the temporal together, is what makes a writer...

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