Snapshots of T.S. Eliot from Virgina Woolf's photo album

T.S. Eliot – The Waste Land 

Cardiff BookTalk is delighted to invite you to our event on Monday 15 August 2022, where we will be marking 100 years of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. Celebrating the poem’s centenary with us are Dr Ruth Alison Clemens of Utrecht Univeristy, Dr Nicoletta Asciuto of the University of York, and Durham University’s Suzannah V. Evans

‘…I will show you fear in a handful of dust’ 

An endless river pours through an Unreal City of fragments and ghostly voices—Madam Sosostris reads the cards, while in rats’ alley the dead men lose their bones; snatches of music hall banter and pub gossip mingle with verses from Dante and The Upanishads; a marriage disintegrates, the Hyacinth Girl dreams of childhood, blind Tiresias make his prophecy and the dead file across London Bridge, while a drowned fisher king awaits… nothing. Welcome to the violently dislocated, parched and anguished London of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.

First published in 1922, The Waste Land has become recognised as one of the key texts of literary modernism. Completed in the aftermath of World War One and the Spanish Flu epidemic, the poem employs a technique of collage drawn from the visual arts and foreshadows later developments such as cinematic montage and the use of sampling in music. Dense with allusions to other writings both ancient and modern, the poem was born out of an experience of deep psychic turmoil, as though the entire history of western art and culture had broken down under the strain of collective trauma. Its impact established Eliot as one of the pre-eminent writers of the era. 

Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1888, Thomas Stearns Eliot moved to England at the age of 25 and settled there for the rest of his life. In addition to his activities as a poet, he was a provocative critic and essayist and had great influence as an editor. From 1925 he worked at Faber and Faber, where he was instrumental in publishing writers such as W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Ted Hughes. Eliot wrote several plays, including Murder in the Cathedral and The Family Reunion and his poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats supplied the libretto for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats. In 1948 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. 

Guiding us in our discussion of The Waste Land are three expert speakers:

Dr Ruth Alison Clemens (Utrecht Univeristy) achieved her PhD in Comparative Literature from Leeds Trinity University and the University of Leeds, United Kingdom. Her research focuses on modernism, book materiality, paratexts, multilingualism, transnationalism, Deleuze, and the posthuman. She currently teaches BA Literary Studies and BA English Language and Culture, as well as BA Liberal Arts and Sciences at University College Utrecht. She was an editor and founder of The Modernist Review, and her work has appeared in Feminist Modernist Studies and BSJ.

Dr Nicoletta Asciuto (University of York) is a Lecturer in Modern Literature. She is a Comparative Modernist scholar and a passionate linguist with knowledge of eight languages. She completed her PhD in English Literature at Durham University in 2015 with a thesis on T. S. Eliot’s use of light and dark imagery in his poetry and drama. In the summer of 2014, she was a Visiting Fellow at Harvard University. She is currently at work on a new project entitled ‘Cities of Modernism‘, with Professor Nan Zhang (Fudan University) and funded by a British Academy UK-China Seed Funding Grant.  

Suzannah V. Evans (Durham University) recently submitted her AHRC-funded doctoral thesis, entitled T. S. Eliot and the Implications of Laforgue and Corbière. Grounded in close readings of Eliot’s poetry and criticism, this is the first full-length study in English to assess these two French poets’ role in shaping Eliot’s poetic voice. Her own poetry has appeared in the New Statesman, English: The Journal of the English Association, and Carcanet’s anthology New Poetries VIII. She is the winner of the Ivan Juritz Prize for Creative Experiment 2020 and of a Northern Writers’ Award from New Writing North. She has published two poetry pamphlets with Guillemot Press, Marine Objects / Some Language and Brightwork, and broadcast poems on BBC Radio Bristol.

Each of our speakers will present a 10-15 minute talk, and then there is an opportunity for audience questions and discussion. To make the most of the session, you may like to read The Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. Eliot. Further recommended texts include Eliot’s poems Sweeney Agonistes, The Hollow Men and Four Quartets and his essay Tradition and the Individual Talent.

The event is free and open to all via Zoom. Book your place via Eventbrite at the link below: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/cardiff-booktalk-the-waste-land-registration-379527345507

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