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  • 2017QiangHuangPhD

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“Forgotten Wars”: war in the writings of T. S. Eliot

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Publication date2017
Number of pages304
Awarding Institution
Thesis sponsors
  • China Scholarship Council
Award date25/09/2017
  • Lancaster University
<mark>Original language</mark>English


Drawing on a large number of newly-published materials, my study, first of all, explores the connection between war, as both a literary theme and historical circumstance, and Eliot’s writings, and casts light on the transformation of both the degree to which war shapes Eliot’s writings and the ways in which Eliot responds to war in his writings. As a timely contribution to Eliot scholarship, my thesis aims at complicating the existing understanding of Eliot’s writings, suggesting political corollaries to the personal, psychological, aesthetic, or philosophical issues that previous critics have explored in depth. In general, the organisation of chapters in this thesis will follow a historical sequence, and each chapter will correspond with one particular stage in the development of Eliot’s writings. In total, there are four chapters in this thesis. Drawing upon Eliot’s wartime biography and correspondence during the First World War, the first chapter explores Eliot’s wartime writings in relation to their historical context, and suggest that, while the War affected young Eliot’s life, war, as a literary theme, also made its presence felt in his writings, sometimes in rather obscure ways. The second chapter scrutinises Eliot’s post-WWI writings between 1919 and 1925, and suggests the ways in which his post-war writings signal both a reflection of the First World War and an observation of the disintegrated Europe in the aftermath of the War. The third chapter investigates the ways in which Eliot sought intelligent debates on political theories as responses to the feverish political climate of the time in a series of cultural conversations that Eliot participated or formed in the Criterion, and argues that the Criterion’s involvement in the discussion of post-war European cultural politics shows not only the War’s impact on the ensuing intellectual debates in interwar Britain, but also that “[a] war of cultures” (CP3 346) was created on the pages of the Criterion. The fourth chapter focuses on Eliot’s writings after 1939, particularly the wartime Four Quartets and the post-war Notes towards the Definition of Culture. First of all, it explores Four Quartets in relation to wartime England during the Second World War, investigating the ways in which Eliot’s three wartime quartets are “patriotic” poems. On the other hand, this chapter explores Eliot’s Notes towards the Definition of Culture, and suggests that Eliot advocates the means of “cultural reconstruction” in a war-torn society after the Second World War. By doing so, I aim to show the way in which war, especially the Second World War, contributes to the formation of Eliot’s cultural theory in the late 1940s.