The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry: The Clark Lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge, 1926, and the Turnbull Lectures at the Johns Hopkins University, 1933

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9780151000968: The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry: The Clark Lectures at Trinity College, Cambridge, 1926, and the Turnbull Lectures at the Johns Hopkins University, 1933

For the first time ever, the eight Clark Lectures on metaphysical poetry that Eliot delivered at Trinity College in Cambridge in 1926, and their revision and extension for his three Turnbull Lectures at The Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore in 1933, are now being published in this annotated edition.

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From Kirkus Reviews:

An annotated edition of Eliot's previously unpublished lectures formulating the influential theory of metaphysical poetry and the ``dissociation of sensibility'' with which he is associated. The volume consists of the eight Clark lectures delivered at Trinity College, Cambridge, 1926, and the three Turnbull lectures delivered at Johns Hopkins, 1933. Before an audience of Victorian gentleman scholars and young rebels such as William Empson and I.A. Richards, Eliot offered a reading of European poetry that located its value in the yoking of thought, feeling, and object, a view of human experience uniting the spiritual, intellectual, and sensual. His claim: Such unity occurred at only three points in Western culture--in the 13th century with Dante; in the 17th with Donne, Crashaw, and Cowley primarily; and in the 19th with Laforgue. These rare ``metaphysical moments'' were lost in the subsequent secular ages, which saw the diversification of knowledge, the ``disintegration of the intellect'' (the proposed title of his critical trilogy), and the decline of religious faith. In place of the clarity, authority, and objectivity that Eliot valued, poets expressed (and critics admired) ambiguity, individualism, and subjectivity. In his copious and detailed footnotes, Schuchard (English/Emory Univ.) identifies Eliot's encyclopedic allusions, corrects what has been called his ``creative misquotations,'' translates his many foreign citations, and explains the subtleties of his argument. His introductions, lucid and ranging, place Eliot in the context of the critical debates of the '20s and provide enough biographical information to humanize the otherwise priestly lecturer. One especially charming scene: Eliot in Baltimore walking into the sunset with F. Scott Fitzgerald. Although Eliot's taste seems precious, obscure, and forbidding in some ways, the lectures are timely and relevant. The theories that helped initiate modernism have curious analogues in postmodern criticism, especially deconstruction, and require only a mind as capacious as Eliot's to elucidate them. -- Copyright ©1994, Kirkus Associates, LP. All rights reserved.

From Booklist:

Literary fashion may have turned our attention away from Eliot in the latter part of this century, but there can be no doubt that he will continue to tower over most other poets of his generation and in some sense to be the defining poet of his time. Eliot lived in the last age in which poetry really mattered, and this collection of his Clark Lectures (delivered in 1926 at Trinity College, Cambridge) suggests a reason why: poets like Eliot were deeply immersed in the problems of language and imagery and the role it played in Western intellectual history. Eliot quotes in Italian, French, and Latin and, in setting out his thesis, draws on the work of philosophers and poets that range from Augustine to Dryden, from Dostoevsky to Mallarm{‚}e, and from Plato to Santayana. His subject is the "metaphysical" poets Dante, Donne, and Laforgue and the synthesis of sensuality and intellect in their language. The eight Clark Lectures and three Turnbull Lectures--none published though famous in their time--are relatively dry but fascinating. Their appearance now suggests how wilted is the modern Western intellect in the grasp of its culture. Stuart Whitwell

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