Author

Jamie Berlin

Date Approved

2012

Degree Type

Open Access Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

English Language and Literature

Committee Member

Elisabeth Däumer, Ph.D, Chair

Committee Member

Christine Neufeld, Ph.D

Abstract

Dante was a seminal influence in T. S. Eliot’s poetry. Many scholars have acknowledged Eliot’s professed debt to Dante and have examined Eliot’s explicit imitations of Dante; however, few have pinpointed Dantean influences in non-explicit references to Dante, and few have credited the influence of a Dantean progress narrative across Eliot’s poem The Waste Land. This thesis broadly analyzes the principles of Dante’s aesthetic in the poem while analyzing the Sibyl, the Hanged Man, and the Prajapati parable for their relevance to Eliot’s aesthetic theory. When Dantean aesthetics and close readings of The Waste Land are compared with Eliot’s contemporary essays on art, a fuller view of the aspects of Dante’s fundamental influence emerges. In particular, the prominence of Dante in the sub-text of Eliot’s The Waste Land reveals the nature of their shared aesthetic—that art is a moral work by virtue of a spiritual transformation endured by the artist, which involves both a sacrifice of self and a substantiation of self. A deeper examination of Dante’s influence on T. S. Eliot yields a vaster understanding of Eliot’s aesthetics while helping to elucidate one of the central mysteries in Eliot’s theory of art, the role of “personality.”

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