The Victorian T.S. Eliot


There exists no definition of "Modernism" chat does not in some way invoke "Victorianism" as a negation. But if we look at the construction of literary periods as they occur historically, it becomes clear chat writers themselves are often the greatest advertisers of their own work, and can permanently influence their places in history through deliberately manipulative critical works, political stances, and literary alliances. Despite their commonly acknowledged distaste for the bourgeoisie, the artists of the "Modernist" movement participated in such advertising campaigns, strategically "winning over" their reading population in an effort to secure their own literary eminence. This thesis interrogates the integrity of the image the "Modernists" created for themselves as "new" and "different" writers, and explores the influence their promotional savvy has on the current state of turn-of the century periodization. To narrow the scope of such a broad investigation, I employ T. S. Eliot as an case in point, and read his first volume of poetry, Prufrock and Other Observations (1917), through a "Victorian" filter, marking the nineteenth-century characteristics chat permeate chis work, while reminding the reader of Eliot's boasts of innovation. Drawing both corresponding and conflicting information from the poet's personal letters and literary criticism, the thesis traces Eliot's fin de siècle tone, his use and/or mockery of social decorum, his personal struggles with faith and his urge to assume the Poet-as-Prophet role, and his incorporation of the nineteenth-century philosophies of Henri Bergson and F. H. Bradley as "outlaw" characteristics in a verse intended to "modernize" literature. It is the recognition of these various characteristics in Eliot's work and the tracing of their ''Victorian" roots chat will link the poet's early compositions with the previous century and will provide us with the ammunition to question the extent to which artists' own promotional efforts govern the interpretation of their work, their places in literary history, and the construction of artistic periods.


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Thesis Completion





Puccio, Paul


Bachelor of Arts (B.A.)


College of Arts and Sciences



Degree Program

English Literature


Arts and Sciences -- Dissertations, Academic;Dissertations, Academic -- Arts and Sciences







Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access


Document Type

Honors in the Major Thesis

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