Monday, February 14, 2011

Tradition

Tradition. It is a word that has many different meanings, as plenty of words tend to do. For writers, it means repetition, boredom. To T.S. Eliot and other poets of his era, tradition meant a certain quality of writing. Specifically, tradition came into play when comparing modern poets with Romantics and Victorians. Romantics and Victorians influenced writers for generations to come.

The writing styles of the Romantics and Victorians have their differences and their points of agreement. While the Romantic writer fancied nature and created poems with ethereal backdrops, the Victorian writer had a more modern standpoint and wrote more realistically about nature and issues that interested them. This is not to say that either of the the writers had more imagination than the other, but they merely used it in ways that suited them. Poets of the 20th century seemed to have taken both of these styles and merged them, to create poems that are full of modern sentiment, but romantically spoken.

English writer T.E. Hulme would have disagreed because he was a man who longed for writers to lose their "romantic view[s] which drag in the infinite," (Greenblatt et al, 2006). He believed that Romantic poems were always "moaning or whining about something or other [...and true romance and...] beauty may be a small, dry thing," (Greenblatt et al, 2006). Many of T.S. Eliot's works echo this sentiment, such as "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". In this poem, Eliot writes of the mundane but presents it in such light that it takes on a life of it's own: "Let us go, through certain half-deserted streets/ the muttering retreats/ of restless nights in one-night cheap hotels/ and sawdust restaurants with oyster shells" (Greenblatt et al, 2006).

Eliot's view of traditionalism stemmed from his respect for Hulme and his base of literary history. He believed that in order to be a great writer, one had to study about literature. By learning different styles and reading about different stories, a writer would know better about how to develop their own style; "This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional. And it is at the same time what makes a writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his contemporaneity," (Greenblatt et al, 2006)".

References:
Greenblatt, et al. [Eds]. (2006). The Norton Anthology of English Literature: The Romantic Period Through the Twentieth Century [vol. 2] (8th ed.). New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.

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