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The Sacred Wood

3.95  ·  Rating Details  ·  235 Ratings  ·  16 Reviews
First published in 1920, this is T.S. Eliot's first collection of literary criticism. It contains some of his most influential early essays and reviews, including Tradition and the Individual Talent, Hamlet and His Problems, and Eliot's thoughts on Marlowe, Jonson, Massinger and Dante.
Published April 1st 1997 by Faber & Faber (first published December 31st 1920)
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I was a comp. lit concentrator, yet no one forced me to read this book? Something does not add up. P.S. you're all fired.
Mar 04, 2014 §-- rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Neither smart enough nor well read enough to be able to enjoy this. Eliot fights battles that were already ended by the time he was born, taking on writers major and minor from 1600-1900. I have never read Massinger, Swinburne, or even Jonson, much less the critics he sends up, so I will confine my comments to the topics I actually am familiar with.

The infamous essay on Hamlet suffices for an argument against New Criticism. While some of his criticism are certainly valid--that certain elements o
Margaret Langstaff
Nov 25, 2011 Margaret Langstaff rated it it was ok
I read this first as a know-nothing English major, highlighted the devil out of it, scribbled mad marginalia throughout bristling and with exclamation points (and arrows, astrices) and swallowed in gulps every bit of Eliot hagiography my profs dished up, without reserve, uncritically.

I found my old undergraduate copy a few days ago and was alternately appalled and entertained by my personal reactions recorded there. Also as I re-read it, the actual text of the book itself, those "priceless" essa
Dec 31, 2015 Johnny rated it really liked it
The Sacred Wood and Major Early Essays has been in my library for a long time. I finally read it yesterday. There are numerous sarcastic phrases that authors have made about critics, two are “pigs at a pastry cart” or “eunuchs in a harem,” but most of them amount to “those who can do and those who cannot, critique.” Of course, this little volume on literary criticism was written by Thomas Stearns Eliot. When he dissects a poet’s work, it has the voice of authority.

Of course, there is a certain d
Stacy Nyikos
Apr 17, 2014 Stacy Nyikos rated it really liked it
Eliot is widely credited with creating the term, objective correlative, which he uses first in this piece to discuss some of the shortcomings of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. He defines objective correlative as: “…a set of objects, a situation, a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion; such that when the external facts, which must terminate in sensory experience, are given, the emotion is immediately evoked” (Eliot para. 7). In working to become more familiar with literary ...more
Feb 04, 2010 H added it
Shelves: poets-prose
"Marlowe's Mephistopheles is a simpler creature than Goethe's. But at least Marlowe has, in a few words, concentrated him into a statement. He is there, and (incidentally) he renders Milton's Satan superfluous. He embodies a philosophy. A creation of art should not do that : he should replace the philosophy. Goethe has not, that is to say, sacrificed to consecrated his thought to make the drama ; the drama is still a means. And this type of mixed art has been repeated by men incomparably smaller ...more
Simon Mcleish
Jan 11, 2013 Simon Mcleish rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
Originally published on my blog here in December 2001.

The poetry of the past was extremely important to T.S. Eliot, and he wrote a fair amount of criticism. This is quite an early collection of essays, mainly about Elizabethan and Jacobean poetic drama. In most of them, the emphasis is on where earlier critics had gone wrong in their assessments of the significance and stature of the poets. While Eliot's writing is (unsurprisingly) insightful, this theme of re-examination and the tone in which i
Dec 09, 2012 Lesliemae rated it really liked it
I went to E.J. Pratt Library. I was preparing for my very first university lecture. Not to attend, but to give one. I was caught in nothing less than an aura of magic and absurdity. Who was I to teach the new undergraduates about T.S. Eliot? What did I know? and yet thoughts about life as a professor - the tweed jacket and gentle the late afternoon sunlight streaming through the window as I make subtle and powerful gestures.

I heard my name called from the circulation desk and was taken into a l
Mar 26, 2007 max rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: the critics
Shelves: unpossessed
Everyone should read the essay "Hamlet and His Problems", which discusses the Objective Correlative, Eliot's preferred critical wedge to attack those poets whose literary moods surpass their ability to embody them in dramatic action. Oh wait, that describes most of Eliot's corpus quite succinctly.

Perhaps, inadvertently, Eliot defines exactly that rare artistic accomplishment which ought to fail but does not, whose elan vital outperforms its plot and soil.

Hate his conclusions if you like and labe
Nigel Pearce
Apr 29, 2015 Nigel Pearce rated it really liked it
Essential reading for anyone who wants to understand 20th century poetry.
J. Alfred
Dec 13, 2011 J. Alfred rated it it was ok
Eliot accomplishes a few things with this, but foremost among the things that he accomplishes is forcefully reminding his reader that he is unbelievably erudite. Some of us didn't need convincing! Other than some interesting quips on isolated authors (interesting only to parties who know and care about those authors- Blake and Dante, for me) there is nothing in this book lost by only reading the central essay "Tradition and the Individual Talent." That, however, is important for anyone intereste ...more
I do know it's time now for me to read this dusty old hardback properly.
I do like T S Eliot. He has moments of pinpointing a thought in words so clearly.

And now, at this time in my life, I am very interested to hear what he thought about literature and criticism - long before Structuralism and the Marxists and the Feminists (to name but a few) arrived and interfered with everything that happens between a text and a reader -

Aug 19, 2012 Jake rated it liked it
This is a collection of Eliot's critisism. No one will ever accuse T.S. of being a page turner, and without a doubt he can be padantic and dull, but there is enough good things in this book to recommend reading. Now, you have to be as sharp as a library to understand the many literary references he makes, but if I takes the attitude of learning something new, then this is pretty good. Also a lot of good one liners.
1969, "Price net 21S: 1.05"

"Poetry is a superior amusement: I do not mean an amusement for superior people. I call it an amusement, an amusement pour distraire les honnêtes gens not because that is a true definition, but because if you call it anything else you are likely to call it something still more false." TSE
Aug 29, 2013 Blair rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays-etc
While I admit that some of the concepts Eliot touches upon are outdated, his views on the role of the artist and critic are very apt and hold up over time. If you have to, focus on "The Perfect Critic" and "Hamlet and His Problems"
Some of the essays were quite insightful, others Eliot seemed to spend more time decrying the criticism of others and little on the work under review. Seem a bit dated too. No denying his erudition though...
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Thomas Stearns Eliot was a poet, dramatist and literary critic. He received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948 "for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry." He wrote the poems The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Waste Land, The Hollow Men, Ash Wednesday, and Four Quartets; the plays Murder in the Cathedral and The Cocktail Party; and the essay Tradition and the Individ ...more
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“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” 237 likes
“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal; bad poets deface what they take, and good poets make it into something better, or at least something different.” 58 likes
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