The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock

The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock Study Guide

T.S. Eliot started writing "Prufrock Among the Women" in 1909 as a graduate student at Harvard. He revised it over the next couple of years, changing the title to "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" along the way. First published in the Chicago magazine Poetry in June 1915, "Prufrock" later headlined Eliot's first book of poetry, Prufrock and Other Observations (1917). The collection established Eliot's reputation as a Modernist poet to be reckoned with, and "Prufrock" detailed many of the techniques and themes

Eliot would expand with "The Waste Land" and later works: vocal fragmentation and allusiveness, a precision of imagery borrowed from the 19th-century French Symbolists, a condemnation of the sterility of the modern world, and a dry, self-conscious wit.

The poem is very much a young man's work, though its speaker, through dramatic monologue, is a presumably middle-aged man. The farcical "J. Alfred Prufrock" name echoes Eliot's style at the time of signing his name "T. Stearns Eliot," and we can assume that Eliot shared at least some of Prufrock's anxieties over women, though he clearly satirizes Prufrock's neuroses (and, thus, his own) at points in the poem. However, this remains a dangerous assumption, as Eliot famously maintained in his essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent" that the "progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality.