Linguistic Analyses of Eliot's Poems

Topics: Poetry, T. S. Eliot, Linguistics Pages: 10 (3535 words) Published: April 2, 2012
Thomas Stern Eliot (1888-1965) is one of the important poets and the most influential critics of English literature. He attempts to re-educate his readers through the use of languages and various other techniques. Many differences in interpretation exist for Eliot’s complex poetry. In this discussion I shall be examining Eliot's use of a range of linguistic devices. The discussion will focus on how T. S. Eliot employs the medium of language to parallel and reflect his observation of the recurring and repetitive patterns of the life and death process. This paper evaluates the complex linguistic structure of The Waste Land, The Hallow Man, and The Four Quartets.

The controversy whether or not poetic language is different from common everyday language started with I.A. Richards’s determining book, principal of Literary Criticism (1930), wherein he mentions two use of language. He argues that a statement is used either as a reference to a cause, true or false, or for the sake of producing emotional attitude. The former he calls the scientific use of language and the latter the emotive. He considers poetry as the supreme form of emotive use of language. Different norms operate in a social and poetic discourse. Deviation from the established norms of a linguistic system is not necessarily a requirement for poetic effect. Various linguistic items form an organic whole within the main body of a poem as these items have meaning within the broader context of the poem. So, the poetic use of language is quite different from the social use because in the former the sound effects, such as assonance, alliteration, rhyme, meter, and even the onomatopoeic expressions are combined with lexical and syntactic arrangement to establish a specific code, whereas the later does not require all these delicacies for the transfer of message. T.S. Eliot’s choice of exotic words, the argot, and slang or vernacular words evokes a level of strangeness. Eliot also employs realistic language and nursery rhymes or nonsense verses, and makes his characters to raise countless questions, and offers open texts with plural meanings. Through investigating these linguistic devices, we will find that Eliot's poetry catches the reader's eye by creating the effect of defamiliarization. The Waste Land is rather an obscure poem. A number of critics claimed that it was a fusion of five misappropriated poems, lacking coherence and thematic unity. The poem has lots of literary, anthropological, mythodological, and religious allusions that all shows the poets level of knowledge. This poem is one of the greatest poems in twentieth century, so through this work an effort has been made to focus the coherent pattern of the poem linguistically. As Eliot usually intertwined his writing by having one piece related to another, The Hollow Men is sometimes considered as an attachment to The Wasteland. Trying to clear up all the figures, symbols and meanings that Eliot wished to transmit through The Hollow Men, we will work on an intensive analysis, describing and explaining as accurately as possible all the linguistic devices found in the text. Finally we shall be examining Eliot's use of a range of linguistic devices in The Four Quartets. T. S. Eliot uses language in a special way to mirror his insight of the repeated patterns of the life and death process. In our discussion we will focus on the linguistic aspects of Eliot's poem.

Linguistic analysis of The Waste Land
A word may have several contextual meanings in non-poetic language, but still these various meanings are established by their syntactic usage in the conventional code. But in poetry one word may have several meanings, or it may be a fusion of various categories that may create even a new category with a totally distinct meaning that may have never existed before. So, words like “fog” and...

Bibliography: Conflicts in Consciousness: T.S. Eliot’s Poetry and Criticism. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1984.
T. S. Eliot. Four Quartets. London: Faber and Faber. 1986
T. S. Eliot’s Poetry and Plays: A Study in Sources and Meaning. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956.
Williamson, George. A Reader’s Guide to T.S. Eliot: A Poem by Poem Analysis. New York: Octagon Books, 1979.
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