restricted access Mastery and Escape: T. S. Eliot and the Dialectic of Modernism by Jewel Spears Brooker (review)
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64Rocky Mountain Review only to eventually be overwhelmed, as Bestuzhev-Marlinsky himself was, by the rising tide of realism. LEWIS TRACY Texas Tech University JEWEL SPEARS BROOKER, Mastery and Escape: T. S. Eliot and the Dialectic of Modernism. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1994. 274 p. All serious scholars will welcome Jewel Spears Brooker's Mastery and Escape: T. S. Eliot and the Dialectic ofModernism. This rich collection of essays displays Brooker's talents as teacher, reviewer, polemicist, intellectual historian, and literary critic. The strongest feature of the book comes from its author's understanding of modernist culture and her willingness to immerse herself in its structures of ideas and values. Brooker sees Eliot as a benchmark modernist embarked on an intellectual quest designed to salvage aesthetic order from "the loss of a shared reference point." This loss, Brooker argues, is the compelling occasion for "modernism in all the arts" (141). In Part One, "Dispensationalism and the Invention of History," Brooker analyzes the modernist conviction that history can only be understood through massive homogeneous blocks of the kind familiar to readers of Spengler or Pound. This "dispensationalist" view, she argues, derives from Christian theology and Christian efforts to read God's order from historical disarray. Dispensationalism acknowledges "that God deals with different people in different ways" (23). In the analogous conditions that Brooker labels "the dispensations of art," she describes a pervasive fear about "the collapse of common ground in history" (71) that reduces modernity to a vacated anteroom in the history of consciousness. After describing Mallarmé's efforts to anatomize the major "dispensations" that control artistic production and audience reception in the fallen conditions of modernity, Brooker turns to T. E. Hulme, arguably the most drastic of dispensationalists. She examines Hulme's bid to construct a new dispensation of Classicism from the chaos of good intentions and bad philosophy he described as Romanticism. In Eliot's effort to reduce the ideological temperature of this debate by seeking "common ground" in form rather than ideology Brooker recognizes a bid to construct a via media that can bring artist and audience back together again under the aegis of a shared artistic convention. This is highly appropriate , she concludes, for a movement that marks "one of the great watersheds in the history of form" (77). The second main seam of Brooker's book concerns itself with the less visible innovations in language and structure in Eliot's work. Brooker begins Book Reviews65 by noting Mallarmé's habit of using "everyday words to convey eccentric or technical meanings" (25). As her narrative persuasively unfolds, it becomes clear that these habits are major influences on Eliot and his intellectual precursors as well. The complex framework of ideas that F. H. Bradley superimposes upon such everyday words as "experience" and "reality" work their way into Eliot's poems and criticism, modifying the composition of the major poems and laying the foundations for his revolution in critical method. Brooker shows how Bradley stands behind the most painful emotion in Eliot's early poetry, "the isolation of the self" (193). But Bradley also provides the structure that can relieve such emotional solitude. For in Bradley's "systematic" thought, Brooker argues, "everything is related to everything else, and . . . any 'new fact' that comes into being instantly becomes part of something bigger than itselF (181). The overarching unity of the self and the selfs imaginative operations, what Brooker calls Eliot's "doctrine of wholeness" (182), arrives through the poet's immersion in Bradley's account of the relationship between experience and reality, words most readers take for granted, but that take on a distinct meaning in Eliot's oeuvre. The final strand of Brooker's research leads her to reopen the question of modernism and myth. She emphasizes the seriousness of Eliot's concern with myth in "The Waste Land," but she underscores that this concern functions at the level of method not material. From J. G. Frazer's The Golden Bough Eliot learned how to make "the modern world possible for art" (114) by assembling an anthology of fragments around a unifying mythological pattern. More specifically, for an art possessed, as Brooker eloquently puts it, by "the strenuous...


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