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The Poetry of T. S. Eliot

8. The Waste Land: Part III: The Fire Sermon

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About this Lecture

Lecture

In this module, we explore the third part of The Waste Land, 'The Fire Sermon', focusing in particular on the juxtaposition between the traditional and the modern: between the Thames of the sixteenth century ('Sweet Thames, run softly, till I end my song') and that of early twentieth century ('The river bears no empty bottles, sandwich papers, silk handkerchiefs…'); between Wagner's Rhinemaidens and Eliot's Thamesmaidens; between Augustinian hope ('O Lord Thou pluckest me out') and twentieth-century despair ('O Lord Thou pluckest / burning').

Course

In this course, Professor Seamus Perry (University of Oxford) explores the poetry of T. S. Eliot through five key poems. In the first three modules, we explore 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock', thinking in particular about its status as a dramatic monologue, its 'difficulty' (and the 'difficulty' of Eliot's poetry more generally), and the presentation of the narrator's social anxieties. After that, we turn to 'Portrait of a Lady', where we think about the tension between civilization and savagery, before turning in the next six modules to Eliot's modernist masterpiece, 'The Waste Land', providing an introduction to the poem as a whole before going through each of the five parts of the poem in turn. After that, in the eleventh module, we turn to 'The Hollow Men', before ending by thinking about Eliot's conversion to Anglicanism in 1927, and his application of the modernist technique to the Christian story of the nativity in 'The Journey of the Magi'.

Lecturer

Seamus' interests are principally in the field of English Romantic poetry and thought, especially Coleridge and Wordsworth, and in post-Romantic English poetry, especially Tennyson, Eliot, Auden, Larkin, and their circles. He also has an interest in the modern history of criticism, reflected in articles on A.C. Bradley, William Empson, F.W. Bateson, and M.H. Abrams. He is co-editor, with Christopher Ricks, of the journal Essays in Criticism: A Quarterly Journal of Literary Criticism (OUP), and the general editor of the new series, 21st-Century Oxford Authors (OUP). He often reviews for the Times Literary Supplement, the London Review of Books, and the Literary Review. He is also Fellow Librarian of Balliol.

Cite this Lecture

APA style

Perry, S. (2018, August 15). The Poetry of T. S. Eliot - The Waste Land: Part III: The Fire Sermon [Video]. MASSOLIT. https://www.massolit.io/courses/the-poetry-of-t-s-eliot/the-waste-land-part-iii-the-fire-sermon

MLA style

Perry, Seamus. "The Poetry of T. S. Eliot – The Waste Land: Part III: The Fire Sermon." MASSOLIT, uploaded by MASSOLIT, 15 Aug 2018, https://www.massolit.io/courses/the-poetry-of-t-s-eliot/the-waste-land-part-iii-the-fire-sermon