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Impossible ModernismT. S. Eliot, Walter Benjamin, and the Critique of Historical Reason$
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Robert S. Lehman

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780804799041

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804799041.001.0001

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(p.27) Chapter 1 Lyric
Impossible Modernism

Robert S. Lehman

Stanford University Press

The first chapter addresses T. S. Eliot’s struggle with history as this struggle unfolds between 1910 and 1920, between the composition of “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” and the publication of “Gerontion.” Challenging readings of Eliot’s project as, from its inception, conciliatory—the terminus of a certain narrative of literary modernism, the moment when modernism became reconciled to its institutional status—this chapter reveals in Eliot’s lyric practice an opposed tendency. During the 1910s, Eliot characterizes the poetic ordering of literary history not only as a synthesis of diverse works but also as a practice whose success depends on a series of divisions, divisions inscribed in the consciousness or the life of the “mature poet” and reduplicated in the poet’s literary creations.

Keywords:   T. S. Eliot, Poetics, Lyric, Tradition, Historicism, Ezra Pound

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