The Waste Land

  • Anne Wright
Part of the Macmillan Studies in Twentieth-Century Literature book series (STCL)


The overt challenge which The Waste Land issues to its readers is that of density and discontinuity. The dense network of historical, literary and mythical allusion is an attempt to depict modern European society and consciousness in the fullness and complexity of its cultural tradition. This allusive method demands that the poem be decoded by a reader constantly alert to subtle counterpoint between text and referent. The historical perspective it provides is both sophisticated and ironic, discriminating critically between past and present, more often than not to the disadvantage of the latter. It is this value-orientation, rather than the density of allusion itself, which raises hackles.


Lexical Item Dirty Hand Funeral Rite Continuous Present Present Participle 
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  1. 1.
    I. A. Richards, ‘The Poetry of T. S. Eliot’, in Principles of Literary Criticism (1924).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    F. R. Leavis, New Bearings in English Poetry, Penguin edn (1963) p. 77.Google Scholar
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    See H. Kenner, ‘The Urban Apocalypse’, in Eliot in His Time ed. A. Walton Litz (1973) pp. 23–49.Google Scholar
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    For a comparison with Pope’s The Dunciad, see J. S. Cunningham, ‘Pope, Eliot, and “The Mind of Europe”’, The Waste Land in Different Voices, ed. A. D. Moody (1974) pp. 67–85.Google Scholar
  5. 19.
    Joseph Conrad, Heart of Darkness Penguin edn (1973) pp. 99–100.Google Scholar
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    See R. Sencourt, T. S. Eliot: A Memoir (New York, 1971 ) pp. 32, 43.Google Scholar
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    See A. E. Waite, The Pictorial Key to the Tarot (New York, 1960 );Google Scholar
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    and D. Ward, T. S. Eliot Between Two Worlds: A Reading of T. S. Eliot’s Poetry and Plays (1973) p. 86.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Anne Wright 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Anne Wright
    • 1
  1. 1.The Hatfield PolytechnicUK

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