Thomas Stearns Eliot OM (September 26, 1888 – January 4, 1965) was a publisher, playwright, literary and social critic and "arguably the most important English-language poet of the 20th century." Although he was born an American, he moved to the United Kingdom in 1914 (at age 25) and was naturalised as a British subject in 1927 at age 39.
T.S. Eliot is generally known as 'the' Modernist poet and probably one of the most important poets in the history of English literature. He wrote a number of plays as well, such as Murder in the Cathedral and The Cocktail Party, and a lot of literary criticism, of which the most famous collection is his Selected Essays and much yet remains unpublished.
The Nobel Prize in Literature 1948 was awarded to T.S. Eliot "for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry".
[T.S. Eliot] conceives a poem as an object, an organic thing in itself, demanding a fusion and concentration of intellect, feeling, and experience. He suggests that, through cultural memory, a poet unconsciously continues the tradition of his culture. His poetry presents difficulties of numerous allusions, use of foreign language, use of metaphysical conceit, and an absence of obvious narrative structure. The Waste Land, considered to be a remarkable and extraordinary achievement, deals with the failure of Western civilization as shown by World War I.
Eliot believed that modern society lacked a vital sense of community and a spiritual center. The waste land of the poem is modern European culture, which had come too far from its spiritual roots. [...] Eliot's poem, depicts modern society as being in the infertile part of the cycle. Human beings are isolated, and sexual relations are sterile and meaningless. Because of the variety and relative obscurity of Eliot's allusions, readers must work through the poem's footnotes several times to appreciate it, but the general impression of isolation, decadence, and sterility comes through in every reading.
...[Eliot] was a true avant-gardist, and he made a revolution. He changed the way poetry in English is written; he re-set the paradigm for literary criticism; and his work laid down the principles on which the modern English department is built. He is the most important figure in twentieth-century English-language literary culture.
Several of his works have been accused of showing prejudice towards Jews. “Burbank with a Baedeker: Bleistein with a Cigar”, “Gerontion”, “In A Cooking Egg”, “Sweeney Among the Nightingales” are some of the poems that seem to tell that Eliot was Anti Semitic, but there were a lot of Jews in the production of these works and they all deny to think of the works to be Anti Semitic.
In retrospect, all of the momentous events in Eliot’s life were determined by a moment of awful daring. In 1933 he left Vivien as abruptly as he had married her, and his decisions to enter the Church of England and, many years later, to marry his secretary, Valerie Fletcher, were similarly nurtured in complete secrecy and subsequently revealed to a world in which even close friends were baffled by Eliot’s behavior, left feeling as if they had never known him.
In addition to the influence of Dante, T. S. Eliot's poetry was deeply indebted to that of Racine. This becomes clear when all his references to the French dramatist are collated. They show that Eliot regarded Racine as one of the major voices of European literature.
or many readers, T.S. Eliot (1888-1965) is synonymous with modernism. Everything about his poetry bespeaks high modernism: its use of myth to undergird and order atomized modern experience; its collage-like juxtaposition of different voices, traditions, and discourses; and its focus on form as the carrier of meaning. His critical prose set the aesthetic standards for the New Criticism, and his journal Criterion was one of the primary arbiters of taste throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s.
Obsessed by 'this self inside us' and determined to guard it, [Eliot] was barely famous in1925 when he decided there should be no biography. He urged those close to him to keep silence, and sealed many letters until the next century. Meanwhile, he devised his own biography, enlarging in poem after poem in the character of a man who conceives of his life as a spiritual quest despite the anti-religious mood of his age and the distracting claims of women, friends, and alternative careers.
Breaking upon the Georgian literary scene, T.S. Eliot presented the credentials of a wide-ranging poetic sensibility by incorporating in his poetry not only the 'best' of European culture and literature but also of american mind and training.
T.S. Eliot is the greatest modern American-British poet. He has given English poetry a new direction where the poet must not remain cocooned within his own self, but must emerge his private self in the public environment - the social milieu. His poetry holds a mirror up to the modern urban complex culture and the modern Weltschmerz. It represents the post-industrial condition of the modern man.
In spite of rarely quite genuine "impersonality" and his always quite genuine reserve, he has in the end through his prose told us more about his poetry than any other English poet I can think of except perhaps Wordsworth: his best criticism , he himself said, was the by-product of his "private poetry-workshop; or a prolongation of the thinking" that had produced the poetry.
It is a difficult question: to what extent did The Waste Land, an international sensation, shape the rest of Eliot's life and work? The poem is not a conversionary work, unlike Ash Wednesday (1930). It is a text of personal breakdown and poetic crisis, covertly taking Walt Whitman's "When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloom'd" as its paradigm.
Although a poet of the English language, Eliot was, first and foremost, a European poet. And this is what precisely distinguished him from many of his English language contemporaries; he belonged to a tradition broader than that of his language.