In his early published and uncollected poetry, T.S. Eliot’s ambivalent engagements with the genre of ekphrasis—the poetic contemplation of a visual art object—are indicative of his nascent and ambivalent commitments to the cultivation of a disinterested poetic voice. While his early published collections externalize the perception of art objects onto decadent communities who are vulgarized for their interest in the fine arts, the unpublished ekphrastic poetry that remained in the notebook he titled Inventions of the March Hare represent markedly different relations between modern poet and historical art: these poetic speakers engage actively and imaginatively, though tentatively and uneasily, with the art of the Old Masters. The conflicting status of ekphrasis and aesthetic experience across these contexts attests to the generic conventions and forms of cultural capital that Eliot negotiated as he sought to develop a distinctively modern poetic.


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pp. 147-165
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