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Becoming T. S. Eliot

The Rhetoric of Voice and Audience in Inventions of the March Hare

Jayme Stayer

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How did an ordinary, if intelligent, boy who wrote unremarkable poems become—with no help, and in record time—the author of one of the most significant and beloved poems of the twentieth century?

T. S. Eliot's juvenilia show little inclination to question the social, cultural, religious, or domestic values he had inherited. How did a young man who wrote uninspired doggerel about wilting flowers transform himself—in a mere twenty months—into the author of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"? In Becoming T. S. Eliot, Jayme Stayer—praised by Christopher Ricks as a scholar who is "scrupulous in…

How did an ordinary, if intelligent, boy who wrote unremarkable poems become—with no help, and in record time—the author of one of the most significant and beloved poems of the twentieth century?

T. S. Eliot's juvenilia show little inclination to question the social, cultural, religious, or domestic values he had inherited. How did a young man who wrote uninspired doggerel about wilting flowers transform himself—in a mere twenty months—into the author of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"? In Becoming T. S. Eliot, Jayme Stayer—praised by Christopher Ricks as a scholar who is "scrupulous in acknowledging the contingencies that will always preclude perfection"—explains this staggering accomplishment by tracing Eliot's artistic and intellectual development. Relying on archival research and original analysis, this is the first book dedicated entirely to Inventions of the March Hare, Eliot's youthful notebook, which was once thought lost but was rediscovered after Eliot's death. Stayer places Eliot's verses in the chronological order of their composition, teasing out the narratives of their making. Focusing on the period from 1909 to 1915, this incisive portrait of Eliot as a budding writer is as much a study of Eliot himself as it is a study of how a writer hones his voice.

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Becoming T. S. Eliot

Jayme Stayer

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Reviews

Reviews

This indispensable companion to Eliot's early poetry analyzes his transformation from a schoolboy seeking his elders' approval to a truth-telling iconoclast and the poet of modern suffering. Stayer's deeply researched and comprehensive study is essential for understanding how Eliot wrote Prufrock and Other Observations and why these poems succeed.

Inspiringly thorough and well-researched, Becoming T. S. Eliot is argued with force, finesse, and great eloquence. A full-scale reexamination of the poems in the poet's March Hare notebook, the book reveals Eliot experimenting with how to fashion both an audience and a speaker for his unique poetic voice. Stayer's prose is jaunty, elegant, and incredibly readable. This is the guide to Eliot's early poems for which we've been waiting.

Stayer's sharpened and complete chronology of Eliot's earliest writings, as well as his analysis of their audience, will be helpful to readers, as will the impressive way he sheds new light on a neglected poem, 'The Engine.'

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Apprentice Alone in His Workshop: The Inventions Notebook
1. Indebted and Well-Bred: Literary Models and Authority in the Juvenilia
2. The Notebook, Begun: The Clash of Laforgue and

Introduction: The Apprentice Alone in His Workshop: The Inventions Notebook
1. Indebted and Well-Bred: Literary Models and Authority in the Juvenilia
2. The Notebook, Begun: The Clash of Laforgue and Baudelaire in the Poems of November 1909
3. Clearing the Throat: The Poems of Early 1910
4. Raising the Voice: The Sequence Poems of Fall 1910
5. Trembling with Pathos: The Paris Poems of Late 1910 and Early 1911
6. The Short and Surprisingly Private Life of King Bolo: The Bawdy Poems and Their Audiences
7. "Prufrock," Abandoned: How the Poem Was Written, How It Was Received, and How It Works
8. Mumbling the Denouement: The Last and Undated Poems of the Notebook, late 1911-1915
Notes
Work Cited
Index

Author Bio
Featured Contributor

Jayme Stayer

Jayme Stayer is an associate professor of literature at Loyola University Chicago and the president of the International T. S. Eliot Society. He is the editor of T. S. Eliot, France, and the Mind of Europe and the coeditor of Tradition and Orthodoxy, 1934–1939, the fifth volume of The Complete Prose of T. S. Eliot: The Critical Edition.