T. S. Eliot, Famous Clairvoyante

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Eliot, the smoothy whose whole career was an inside job, demands to be unmasked: his Englishness should be torn aside, his courtesy revealed as cowardice, and, above all, the coolness and distance of his verse reread as a front for emotional torment and the hiss of racial spite. Anyone who announces, as Eliot did, that poetry is an escape from personality can expect, now more than ever, to have his personality ripped open like a fox. Does modernist aesthetic theory amount to more than a set of masks that criticism must tear away? Certainly it isn't hard to see how the doctrine of impersonality bolsters claims for aesthetic disinterestedness – claims that have been thoroughly demystified to reveal the self-interest and special pleading that lie underneath. The modernist ideal of art's autonomy has been regarded skeptically for several decades now, following the suspicion that it rationalizes various forms of dissimulation. The critic's job is to discover what, in any given case, this aesthetic ideology is being employed to disguise. Since T. S. Eliot had so much to hide – a disastrous marriage, his near-phobic hatred of women, the faint but unmistakable hint of sexual deviancy, along with the expatriate's standard insecurities about fitting in, not to mention his anti-Semitism and racialist bigotries – recent critics have found plenty to expose.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationGender, Desire, and Sexuality in T. S. Eliot
EditorsCassandra Laity, Nancy K. Gish
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages23
ISBN (Electronic)9780511485091
ISBN (Print)0521806887, 9780521806886
StatePublished - Jan 1 2004
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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