Eliot as a thinker was profoundly interested in the role of literary tradition—the impact of earlier great writers on later ones. Eliot, Pound wrote, “has actually trained himself and modernized himself on his own.” Sometime in the period from 1908 through 1910, Eliot managed to create a new poetic style in English.However, he himself in a sense started from scratch. During this time, he had been reading the French Symbolist poets, who had flourished in the last half of the nineteenth century. The kind of poetry that I needed, to teach me the use of my own voice, did not exist in English at all; it was only found in French.” The immediate result of this new style was “The Love Song of J. Modernism was an artistic movement that lasted, in American and English literature, from about 1900 to 1940, although most literature since that time continues to be heavily influenced by modernist techiques.
Easily as important, however, is the fact that Eliot’s theories go a long way toward explaining what he was trying to do in his poetry.
In his next major poem, and his most famous, these ideas were given full play.
Once again, the setting was bleakly urban and the sensibility of the speaker was distinctly modern, which meant that the speaker’s viewpoint was ironic, detached, and resigned. Scholars still debate the impact on subsequent literature of these relatively short prose articles, most of which were written for literary magazines or newspapers.
Students of modern English literature agree, however, that these essays, like the poems that preceded them, permanently altered the way readers assessed poetry.
Alfred Prufrock” was Eliot’s use of intensely urban imagery: Prufrock is a citizen of the modern city, an acute observer of its confusion, grime, and poignancy.
The poem’s opening lines are reminiscent of images that French readers had found in the work of Baudelaire.
For English readers, however, the stark pictures of Eliot’s poem were startling: “Let us go then, you and I,/ When the evening is spread out against the sky/ Like a patient etherized upon a table.” When appeared in 1917, readers knew that a new and powerful poetic movement was beginning to make itself felt.
Eliot and Pound knew that they were creating a literary revolution: Both poets actively furthered the revolution through their essays, articles, and reviews. The volume included “Gerontion,” a monologue spoken by an old man and cast in blank verse.
The mood is one of despair, loneliness, and confusion—the central feelings, Eliot believed, of modern city dwellers.
During the early and mid-1920’s, Eliot struggled to emerge from his own private wasteland.