The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (1920)
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The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism (1920)

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  174 ratings  ·  15 reviews
An excerpt from the beginning of:

Tradition and the Individual Talent

IN English writing we seldom speak of tradition, though we occasionally apply its name in deploring its absence. We cannot refer to "the tradition" or to "a tradition"; at most, we employ the adjective in saying that the poetry of So-and-so is "traditional" or even "too traditional." Seldom, perhaps, does...more
Hardcover, 174 pages
Published June 1st 2008 by Kessinger Publishing (first published December 31st 1920)
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Perhaps we don’t all want to read Homer and Virgil, but then we have to ask ourselves: can we truly appreciate Western Literature without understanding them? According to Eliot, the answer should be an obvious NO! And the worry for him is wasted talent—a talent that has been led to believe he can move forward (either as critic or artist) without first mastering the moment in which he lives through an understanding of the past. A serious concern indeed, and this collection, which ranges over Eliz...more
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.
Margaret Langstaff
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...more
Stacy Nyikos
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
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...more
"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
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...more
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...more
Mar 26, 2007 max rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
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...more
J. Alfred
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 -

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.
May 15, 2011 pjr8888 is currently reading it
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
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
More about T.S. Eliot...
The Waste Land and Other Poems The Waste Land Collected Poems, 1909-1962 The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock and Other Poems Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats

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“Immature poets imitate; mature poets steal.” 178 likes
“No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead.” 36 likes
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