From physics to metaphysics : philosophy and style in the critical writings of T.S. Eliot (1913-1935)
This thesis considers Eliot's critical writing from the late 1910s till the mid-1930s, in the light of his PhD thesis - Knowledge and Experience in the Philosophy of F. H. Bradley - and a range of unpublished material: T S. Eliot's Philosophical Essays and Notes (1913- 4) in the Hayward Bequest (King's College, Cambridge University); T. S. Eliot's Family Papers in the T. S. Eliot Collection at the Houghton Library (Harvard University); and items from the Harvard University Archives at the Pusey Library. 'Me thesis offers a comprehensive view of Eliot's critical development throughout this important period. It starts by considering The Sacred Wood's ambivalence towards the metaphysical philosophy of F. H. Bradley and Eliot's apparent adoption of a scientific method, under the influence of Bertrand Russell. It will be argued that Eliot uses rhetorical strategies which simultaneously subvert the method he is propounding, and which set the tone for an assessment of his criticism throughout the 1920s. His indecision, in this period, about the label 'Metaphysical' for some poets of the seventeenth century, reveals the persistence of the philosophical thought he apparently rejects in 1916, when he chooses not to pursue a career in philosophy in Harvard. This rhetorical tactic achieves its fulfilment in Dante (1929), where Eliot finds a model in the medieval allegorical method and 'philosophical' poetry. Allegory is also examined in connection with the evaluation of Eliot's critical writings themselves to determine, for instance, the figurative dimension of his early scientific vocabulary and uncover metaphysical residues he had explicitly disowned but would later embrace. Finally, it is suggested that, the hermeneutics of allegory are historical and it is used here to test the relationship between Eliot's early and later critical writings, that is the early physics and the later metaphysics.