In this Book
We are delighted to announce that Volume 2 of The Complete Prose of T. S. Eliot: The Critical Edition was awarded the Modernist Studies Association 2015 Book Prize for an Edition, Anthology, or Essay Collection.
The Perfect Critic, 1919-1926, Volume 2 of The Complete Prose of T. S. Eliot, documents Eliot's emergence as an authoritative and commanding critical voice in twentieth-century letters. The essays and reviews in this volume, most of which were never republished or collected after their first appearances in periodicals, trace the swift and astonishing arc of his rise to international prominence as an incisive critic of literature and culture, an avant-garde poet, and an editor of a successful and celebrated London journal. These seven years register the seismic shift in modern poetry that comes with the publication of The Waste Land (1922), and they witness the appearance of Eliot's first collected volume of verse, Poems, 1909-1925 (1925).
Eliot composed not less than 130 essays, reviews, and letters during this brief time, publishing in venues as various as The Athenaeum, The Times Literary Supplement, La Nouvelle Revue française, The Dial, and Vanity Fair. Such a period of intense creativity and prolific critical writing is all the more remarkable when considered against the backdrop of the extraordinary upheavals in his personal life: the unexpected deaths of his father and sister, the dismal mental and physical health of his wife Vivienne, and Eliot's own psychological breakdown and treatment. The volume features a thorough historical introduction that describes the dynamic and challenging circumstances, both personal and professional, that faced him as he began to establish his critical reputation in London literary circles and beyond.
The Perfect Critic gathers together an impressive and widely unknown body of work, but it includes also several of Eliot's most influential and enduring essays—“Tradition and the Individual Talent,” “Hamlet,” “The Metaphysical Poets,” and “Ulysses, Order, and Myth”—now edited and annotated by Anthony Cuda and Ronald Schuchard. These magisterial early works furnish us with the signal concepts and phrases that have made Eliot's criticism a permanent feature of monographs, syllabi, and anthologies, including the “extinction of personality,” the “objective correlative,” the “dissociation of sensibility,” and the “mythical method.”
The Perfect Critic includes a previously unpublished essay, “A Neglected Aspect of Chapman,” as well as the contents of two influential prose volumes published during the period, The Sacred Wood (1920) and Homage to John Dryden (1924). It also contains newly edited versions of the eight Clark Lectures that Eliot delivered in 1926 for the prestigious series at Trinity College, Cambridge.
Anthony Cuda, associate professor of English at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, is the author of The Passions of Modernism: Eliot, Yeats, Woolf and Mann (2010). He has published articles on Eliot, Yeats, and Heaney, and his reviews of contemporary poetry have appeared in The Washington Post Book World, The New Criterion, FIELD: Contemporary Poetry and Poetics, and elsewhere. He is a member of the Board of Directors of the T. S. Eliot Society and a regular lecturer at the T. S. Eliot International Summer School.
Ronald Schuchard, the Goodrich C. White Professor of English, Emeritus, at Emory University, is the author of award-winning Eliot's Dark Angel (1999) and The Last Minstrels: Yeats and the Revival of the Bardic Arts (2008). The editor of Eliot's Clark and Turnbull lectures, The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry (1993), he is co-editor with John Kelly of The Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats, Volume 3 (1994), Volume 4 (2005), winner of the MLA's Cohen Award for a Distinguished Edition of Letters, and Volume 5 (forthcoming). A former Guggenheim fellow and founder-director of the T. S. Eliot International Summer School (2009-2013), he is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Table of Contents
- The Duchess of Malfi at the Lyric: and Poetic Drama
- pp. 170-175
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- The Phoenix Society. To the Editor of The Athenaeum
- pp. 193-194
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- The Perfect Critic. To the Editor of The Athenaeum
- pp. 273-274
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- The Clark Lectures: Lectures on the Metaphysical Poetry of the Seventeenth Century with Special Reference to Donne, Crashaw and Cowley
- p. 609