“T.S. Eliot and the Dynamic Imagination”considers Eliot’s poetic rendering of light through the evolving medium of the eye. The eye became for Eliot an increasingly contested symbol of empirical vision and its opposite, the inner vision, which may or may not reveal the “truth” the eye conceals. Charting Eliot’s engagement with the science of optics and color perception, the analysis extends from the eye to vision (in parallel with the poetic movement from depictions of the physical eye to psychological symbols of inner vision). It considers Eliot’s wavering between imagining the universal aspect of vision (he once wrote that “Speech varies, but our eyes are all the same”), and an awareness of the propensity for vision to play tricks with the specters and shadows of its own casting.
Dr Sarah Kennedy is a Research Fellow in English at Downing College, Cambridge, specializing in modernist and contemporary Anglophone poetry. Her research interests include metaphor, landscape, and literary selves
T. S. Eliot and the Dynamic Imagination
By Sarah Kennedy
Cambridge University Press
How is a poem made? From what constellation of inner and outer worlds does it issue forth? Sarah Kennedy's study of Eliot's poetics seeks out those images most striking in their resonance and recurrence: the 'sea-change', the 'light invisible' and the 'dark ghost'. She makes the case for these sustained metaphors as constitutive of the poet's imagination and art. Eliot was haunted by recurrence. His work is full of moments of luminous recognitions, moments in which a writer discovers both subject and appropriate image. This book examines such moments of recognition and invocation by reference to three clusters of imagery, drawing on the contemporary languages of literary criticism, psychology, physics and anthropology. Eliot's transposition of these registers, at turns wary and beguiled, interweaves modern understandings of originary processes in the human and natural world with a poet's preoccupation with language. The metaphors arising from these intersections generate the imaginative logic of Eliot's poetry.