From Physics to Metaphysics: Philosophy and Allegory in the Critical Writings of T. S. Eliot
This study starts from the premise that T. S. Eliot was a serious student of philosophy before turning to literature and it continues by attempting to determine the significance of this background in his development as a literary critic. It concerns itself only with Eliot’s prose writings, and the importance of philosophy in the interpretation of his literary criticism up to the mid 1930s. The choice of this date is partly determined by Eliot’s own suggestion in To Criticize the Critic (1965) that his critical career may be divided into three periods: the first runs to the end of his involvement with the Egoist in 1918; the second covers roughly the whole of the 1920s which then give way to a period “of public lectures and addresses, rather than articles and reviews”. The stylistic tensions which mark the development of Eliot’s critical voice are at their most evident in the earlier parts, if only because these writings are ultimately about the problem of the use and style of critical language. It is my intention to argue that Eliot’s turn from philosophy to literature was instigated by the hope of finding in the literary a style which would make up for the one which had defeated him in his philosophical studies.