2023 T. S. Eliot Summer School
The T.S. Eliot Summer School runs across one week, from 8-16 July 2023 at Senate House, London.
The programme features original lectures, small-group seminars, and special outings to Burnt Norton and Little Gidding.
Each student will choose one seminar to attend for the week; seminars will meet each afternoon, Monday to Friday.
The weekly schedule is below, followed by the list of seminars and the schedule of daily lectures and their titles.
Early Work: Poetry, Prose, Drama | Julia Daniel, Baylor University
Join us for an exploration of Eliot’s early verse, from his first poetic experiments in St. Louis up to the lintel of his conversion and British citizenship. We will study his major pieces during this iconic phase of his career, including “Preludes,” “Portrait of a Lady,” “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” “The Hollow Men,” and The Waste Land. We will also investigate his apprentice notebook labors in selections from Inventions of the March Hare, as well as his early forays into theatrical experimentation with Sweeney Agonistes. By pairing our close readings with Eliot’s contemporary essays, such as the famous (or infamous) “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” seminarians will examine how Eliot understands his poetic task and refines his craft in the context of an unfolding modernity.
The Waste Land | Anthony Cuda, UNC Greensboro
The most important poem of the twentieth-century just celebrated its 100th anniversary, and an array of new materials has emerged to help us regard with new eyes its strangeness, difficulty, and beauty. This seminar will introduce students to the poem’s themes and structures, to some accepted ways of understanding its methods and avante-garde techniques, and to the newest insights into its dazzling and disturbing imaginative leaps. We’ll consult drafts and discarded fragments; read essays and letters that illuminate Eliot’s state of mind at the time of its composition; and immerse ourselves in source materials from the visual arts, opera, the Russian Ballet, classical myth, and anthropology.
Later Work: Poetry, Prose, Drama | David Chinitz, Loyola University Chicago
We will focus on Eliot’s poetry and prose from his 1927 conversion through his completion of Four Quartets during the Second World War. Eliot himself felt that the Quartets marked the pinnacle of his career as a poet; they were also its endpoint, as the creative energy of his later years went into writing drama. Other highlights we will visit in the seminar include “Journey of the Magi,” Ash-Wednesday, and the play Murder in the Cathedral, all of which express a hard-won and doubt-beset faith. Alongside these works, we’ll read several pieces of concurrent prose that shed light on the ideas and principles underlying Eliot’s verse, including “Dante,” “The Music of Poetry,” “The Social Function of Poetry,” and perhaps some lesser-known pieces only recently collected in The Complete Prose.
Spatial Eliot: Places, Houses, Monuments | Ria Banerjee, CUNY Guttman and the Graduate Center
This seminar will be devoted to some of the many places that occur in Eliot’s writing beyond the best known ones in London. Guided by his poetry–as well as by diaries and letters–we will take a tour through Eliot’s St. Louis, Boston, England, Scotland, and places even farther afield (India! North Africa!). We’ll discuss how he applied a uniquely spatial reasoning to understand pressing social and cultural problems of his day, such as the “Idea of Europe” and the interconnected globe that he apprehended. A result of all this spatial thinking will be to enhance our own sensitivity to the places we will inhabit during the Summer School - Little Gidding, Russell Square, Burnt Norton - and to reinvigorate our sense of how a modernist innovator used spaces symbolically for political and poetic ends.
Eliot and the Environment | Rachel Murray, Northumbria University
What might it mean to read Eliot’s writing in the context of present-day environmental concerns? During the centenary of The Waste Land, a parallel has often been drawn between the poem’s unseasonable weather and ravaged landscapes and the increasingly visible effects of climate change. But might Eliot’s writing have something more to offer us in our current moment than barren images of a dying world? And might we gain more insights about Eliot’s perspective on the environment, and on nonhuman life, from reading more widely across his body of work, including his essays and criticism? In this session, we’ll be examining a selection of poetry and prose from across Eliot’s oeuvre, from the early poems, to excerpts from The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism, to ‘The Dry Salvages.’
New World Eliot | Anita H. Patterson, Boston University
Crossing racial and national boundaries, Eliot’s writings profoundly shaped the development of New World modernist poetics, enabling Black poets in the US and Caribbean to acknowledge, comprehend, and represent their experience of what Edouard Glissant has aptly described as their “irruption into modernity.” In this seminar we will closely examine Eliot’s major poems and essays and consider why his formal innovations and collocation of diverse cultural resources exerted, through a process of revisionary adaptation, such a strong influence on the lyric practices of Black American and Caribbean poets. Situating Eliot’s work in conversation with poems and commentaries by Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Hayden, Derek Walcott, and Kamau Brathwaite, we will assess the changing significance of Eliot’s legacy and explore how formative engagement with Eliot on the part of this later generation of Black poets sheds new light on poems we thought we already knew.
The inaugural lecture of the 2023 T. S. Eliot summer school will be given by Ruth Padel. You can read more about the lecturers on our Meet the T.S Eliot lecturers, tutors and readers page.