Eliot and the Mutations of Objectivity

  • Richard Shusterman


Eliot’s poetic and critical theory is deservedly renowned for its intense concern with objectivity. Two of his most famous ‘theories’ — the theory of the objective correlative and ‘the Impersonal theory of poetry’, ardently advocate the aim of objectivity and have, whatever their merit, become landmarks of literary theory, inspiring enormous polemical and exegetical discussion. These influential theories, of course, refer specifically to objectivity in the art of the poet rather than that of the critic. But here, as elsewhere, Eliot’s critical theory closely resembles his poetic theory, since, as Eliot himself so often insisted, his criticism was essentially a byproduct of his poetic enterprise. It is not surprising, then, that Eliot’s theory of criticism reveals a similar concern with objectivity and impersonal analysis, which is largely responsible for his being identified as a father of the New Criticism and as an uncompromising champion of critical objectivism.1


Critical Theory External Reality Individual Talent Critical Practice Living Tradition 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1990

Authors and Affiliations

  • Richard Shusterman

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