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T.S. Eliot and the Jews: A study in anti-Semitism and literary form

Julius, Anthony Robert; (1993) T.S. Eliot and the Jews: A study in anti-Semitism and literary form. Doctoral thesis (Ph.D), UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

Eliot wrote some diversely anti-Semitic poems. They are offensive. In his work, Jews tend to be contemptible rather than frightening. Its anti-Semitism is neither marginal nor especially typical of its time. It is not analogous to misogyny (chapter 1), For certain reasons, Jewish critics have been reluctant to acknowledge Eliot's anti-Semitism. "Gerontion"'s anti-Semitism, and its relation to the form of the dramatic monologue, may be explored by reference to Genesis 22 and Browning. "A Song for Simeon" consummates Eliot's anti-Semitism by placing Jews entirely within the Christian story (chapter 2). The belief that poetry, or good poetry, does not make statements supports the view that Eliot's poetry is not anti-Semitic. "Sweeney Among the Nightingales" proves that this view is false. Anyway, anti-Semitism itself is not wholly propositional. It is compatible with a Symbolist imagination. In Eliot's case, as "Burbank" demonstrates, it is evidence of such an imagination in crisis (chapter 3). Eliot's anti-Semitic poems are ugly, the principal fruits of his "contemplation of the horrid or sordid or disgusting" (The Sacred Wood). "Gerontion" and "Dirge" exemplify this anti-aesthetic of ugliness. Eliot's poetry exploits anti-Semitism to literary effect; his prose does not. For example, anti-Semitism blinded Eliot to Jewish suffering in Nazi Germany (chapter 4). Eliot's anti-Semitic prose makes the "free-thinking Jew" the target. (This contrasts with the myopic, insensate philistinism of the Jews in the poems). Neither Freud nor Benda nor even Spinoza escape Eliot's scorn. In After Strange Gods the "free-thinking Jew" is the figure of that text's instability (chapter 5). Both the literary and the extra-literary evidence that Eliot regretted his work's anti-Semitism is ambiguous. There are reasons why it may have been difficult for Eliot to repudiate it (chapter 6).

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Qualification: Ph.D
Title: T.S. Eliot and the Jews: A study in anti-Semitism and literary form
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Additional information: Thesis digitised by ProQuest.
Keywords: Language, literature and linguistics; Social sciences; Anti-Semitism; Eliot, T.S.
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10097499
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