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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.87) Chapter 3 Myth
Impossible Modernism

Robert S. Lehman

Stanford University Press

The third chapter focuses on T. S. Eliot’s turn to the “mythical method” as a strategy of literary creation through division. Examining the delimitation in The Waste Land of the history of verse as it develops from Chaucer to Whitman, it shows that Eliot turns to myth not to forge connections with something temporally or spatially other but to cut his poem free from its literary-historical past. Within the realm of myth, broken off from the unending historical cycles that provide The Waste Land with its subject matter, Eliot attempts to place the poet’s creative act. The results are volatile: history remains, in the poem, the space of production, however fallen its products, while myth stands apart from history as a space where nothing—not history and certainly not literary history—happens.

Keywords:   T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land, Historicism, Ezra Pound, James Joyce

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