8th - 16th July 2017
Poetry lovers and Eliot enthusiasts are invited to the ninth annual, week-long celebration of the life and writing of one of the greatest modern English poets.
From Monday to Friday, the School will present two lectures each morning on all aspects of Eliot's life and work. Students choose one option from a variety of afternoon seminars for a week-long, in-depth study under the guidance of a seminar leader. The seminars cover a range of subjects on Eliot's poetry, criticism and drama.
In addition to the lectures, seminars, receptions and coach trips, there will also be a series of social activities, including poetry readings, discussion groups, and late afternoon walking tours of T.S. Eliot’s London and literary Bloomsbury. The Summer School aims to maximise opportunities for social interaction and intellectual exchange within a convivial and scholarly environment.
Simon Armitage, the present Oxford Professor of Poetry, will give a reading and signing from his new work in the London Library.
Outlines for confirmed seminars for 2017:
New Perspectives on Eliot’s Poetry and Prose (Ronald Schuchard)
In this new century of Eliot studies, and especially since the commissioning of the Eliot Editorial Project and the inauguration of the T. S. Eliot International Summer School in 2009, there have been dramatic developments in the way we talk and write about Eliot’s life and writing. After fifty years of restrictions on Eliot’s archives and his uncollected and unpublished works, we now have the first volume of a magisterial new biography, Young Eliot: From St. Louis to The Waste Land, two richly annotated volumes of The Poems of T. S. Eliot, six of The Complete Prose of T. S. Eliot through 1946, seven of The Letters of T. S. Eliot through 1935, with more to come. This introductory seminar will draw on the wealth of new information in these editions, and on the scholarship they have begun to influence, to bring new perspectives to Eliot’s major poems and prose: from “Prufrock” to “Burnt Norton,” and from “Tradition and the Individual Talent” to “The Music of Poetry,” together with several previously unpublished essays that illuminate the poetry and criticism.
The Eliot Revolution: Constructing the Early Poetry and Poetics (Marjorie Perloff)
The Notes to the new Annotated Text (Ricks & McCue) of Eliot’s Poems remind us how revolutionary Eliot’s early poems really were, with respect to verse form, sound structure, syntax, and rhetoric. Read against the background of Georgian and Edwardian poetry in England, and its counterpart in the “genteel” poetry of the 1900s in the US, Eliot’s poems from “Prufrock” to “The Waste Land” represent what still strikes us as “the shock of the new,” and his poetics, put forward not just in the well-known essays but in the fugitive pieces collected in Volume 1 of The Complete Prose, sets a new challenge for the theory of the lyric in the 20th century. This seminar will look closely at the formal and structural aspects of the Eliot Revolution vis-à-vis the Establishment of the day.
Eliot’s Conversion: from “The Hollow Men” to Ash-Wednesday (Robert Crawford)
This seminar will concentrate on four poems written in the years around Eliot's reception into the Church of England: 'The Hollow Men', 'Journey of the Magi', 'A Song for Simeon', and Ash-Wednesday. We will read these alongside some of Eliot's prose from volumes 3 and 4 of the online Complete Prose, particularly the essays 'Dante' (1929), 'Baudelaire' (1930), and 'The Pensées of Pascal' (1931). Our aim will be to see how far we can examine the poems as articulations of a journey towards religious commitment, and how far we can understand Eliot’s journey. Though we won’t focus on it, you may wish to prepare by reading ‘Sweeney Agonistes’ as well as the works mentioned above. Please bring a copy of volume 1 of the Ricks/McCue edition of Eliot’s Poems. No prior knowledge of the Church of England will be assumed.
Reading Eliot Across Cultures (Kinereth Meyer)
In his 1955 essay, "Goethe the Sage,” Eliot restates a problem that had engaged him throughout his career: "Does the poet hold an ‘idea’ in the same way that a philosopher holds it; and when he expresses a particular ‘philosophy’ in his poetry, should he be expected to believe this philosophy, or may he legitimately treat it merely as suitable material for a poem?” Focusing on the reader, Eliot continues: “And furthermore, is the reader’s acceptance of the same philosophy a necessary condition for his full appreciation of the poem?” In this seminar, we will examine essays in which Eliot discusses the issue of literature and belief ("Dante," "Goethe the Sage," "George Herbert"), and explore how the non-Christian or secular reader approaches post –conversion poems such as "Journey of the Magi," "A Song for Simeon," Ash-Wednesday, and Four Quartets.
Eliot’s Late Style: the four quartets (Robert von Hallberg)
Two decades after the Waste Land had made Eliot an unavoidable influence on other poets, he reinvented his style with the publication of Four Quartets (1942). Helen Gardner held that Four Quartets constitute a masterpiece, and I think she is right. But many eminent critics disagree. Hugh Kenner seemed not to have felt the force of Four Quartets: “After writing for two years straight on dramatic pieces,” Kenner says, “Eliot had acquired an ability to write with “an air of unemphatic meaning.” Kenner seems to have thought that Eliot was insufficiently committed to his own thought. “The words appear to be writing themselves,” he said of Burnt Norton. F. O. Matthiessen wrote that in East Coker Eliot “has carried his experiment with the prosaic virtually over the border into prose.” Discursiveness in poetry is remains controversial. Four Quartets are not so plainly marked as poetry as some critics want. The poems are sparing of figures. How far can poetic language go in imitation of expository prose? Is the articulation of ideas or the imitation of thought a burden on meditative poetry? We will approach these questions in the light of Eliot’s poems but also of some passages from Pope’s Essay on Man and Rilke’s Duino Elegies. Bernard Bergonzi speaks of “a deliberately abstract and philosophical poetry which is new in [Eliot’s] work. It is not philosophical in the sense that it attempts to versify preexisting ideas, but in making poetry out of the actual process of thinking rather than its results.” We will discuss some recent work on the poetic representation of thought by Simon Jarvis and others. Two decades ago Denis Donoghue called it an embarrassment that “no critical method has arisen . . . to show the poetic character and potentiality of discourse.” Readers feel the force of John Ashbery and Jorie Graham’s resistant discursiveness, but we still lack proper terms for measuring the strengths of the poetry of the Four Quartets and the poems that have followed Eliot’s example.
The jeune fille, Abstraction and the Universe : Eliot’s approaches to French Poetry (Stephen Romer)
Writing in 1944 in answer to the question What France Means to Me ? T.S .Eliot replied that it meant, essentially, the art of poetry, and in particular the art of Baudelaire, but also of the poets who streamed in different directions from this source – Laforgue and Corbière for their irony and gift of self-dramatization, and Mallarmé and Valéry for their analysis of language itself, and the self-consciousness they brought to their art. Throughout his career, Eliot came to favour different aspects of these poets, and others ; but at every point he paid the French poets the great compliment of reading them with the utmost seriousness ; so much so that he wants at one point to cure Laforgue’s metaphysical malady concerning the jeune fille by means of Dante ; just as Valéry’s chronic scepticism might be ‘completed’ by the kind of faith that Pascal possessed. I want in this seminar to explore instances of this kind of exemplary attention, and show the general shift of Eliot’s early interest in Laforgue through to his wrestling in Four Quartets with the metaphysical and linguistic implications of Mallarmé. A study of Eliot’s reaction to French poetry and French thought is in fact a fruitful way of approaching his œuvre as a whole. Use will be made in class of the new material on French poetry now available in the online resource from Johns Hopkins University, that gathers the uncollected prose writings of the poet.
Knowledge of French is not a requisite in this seminar. Any material in French will be accompanied by English translation.
*Special offer: Copies of the two-volume Faber edition of Eliot’s Poems, edited by Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue, will be available at the School at a discount of 40% for those who wish to purchase them.*
The School also includes intellectual programmes at two of the sites of the Four Quartets: Little Gidding and Burnt Norton.
These will be to two of the sites of the Four Quartets - Little Gidding (9 July 2017) and Burnt Norton (15 July).
There is the possibility of attending just the trips and not the rest of the Summer School for those who may have attended the seminars before. Each trip will cost £70. If you wish to sign up for one or both of the trips, please complete the online forms by clicking the links below.