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Home » , » How does Eliot advise the would be writer in his critical essay "Tradition and Individual Talent"
Tradition and Individual Talent" is one of the best achievements of T.S. Eliot. It is the outcome of his extensive study and reading. This critical essay bears a special significance and may be the guideline for the budding writers. T.S. Eliot is considered to be the greatest critic of the age. He is the Napoleon of English Literature. He has been compared with Aristotle. He observes that English criticism was in a chaotic situation. However, Eliot wanted to bring a historical change in the field of English literary criticism. He also hoped to mend some wrong concepts and ideas of the writers and artists. In this essay, Eliot has shown some ways and paths for the newcomers in literature. He ventures lessons to the budding writers. Eliot says that no artist or no poet of any art has his real value alone. If we want to evaluate him, we must set him among the dead poets. So here a point is quite clear that the artist must have historical sense. This historical sense is called the sense of tradition. The sense of tradition is not achieved so easily. It is acquired with a painstaking endeavour. Actually, tradition cannot be inherited. A poet must be aware of the pastness of the past. But the blind following is not to be allowed. Eliot says that novelty or newness is better than repetition. A writer should have an authority. He should be conformed to the external authority. The historical sense is what makes a writer traditional. It also makes the writer most acutely and sharply conscious of his place in his own contemporary period. So the historical sense as well as the fondness of tradition can make a good writer.Eliot has regarded the whole literature of Europe from Homer down to his own day as a single trend of literature. He declares that the poet should have conformity to the tradition. A writer will not be limited within his own literature and culture. He will be acquainted with that of others. He has to make reconciliation between tradition and individual talent.Another lesson is given by Eliot to the budding writer. It is the theory of impersonality in poetry. In the impersonal theory of Eliot, he has said that a poet's personality must not be reflected into his poetry. The poet should be aloof from his writings. In this respect, Eliot has given an analogy. He argues that in the reaction between sulphur dioxide and oxygen, the platinum fulminet works as a catalyst. After the reaction, sulphurus acid is produced but the catalyst remains unchanged. No trace of the catalyst is found in the products. Eliot has compared the poet's mind to a catalyst. Now we may question how a poet's personality can be aloof from his poetry. Actually, the poet must expose the personality of readers in his poems. The personality of the poet should be that of the readers. In this regard, Eliot says--"The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality."In fact, the poet cannot achieve this impersonality without surrendering himself wholly to the work to be done.Wordsworth's theory of poetry is regarded as an inexact formula by Eliot. His definition of poetry is severely attacked and criticism. Eliot says that not the question of emotion but concentration of mind is a must in writing poetry. He believes that a poet's feelings will never come into his poems. It is not the expression of emotion but an escape from emotion. Eliot opines that emotion and feelings are not the same things. They have difference. But Wordsworth has mingled them. According to Eliot, a good poet should be conscious of them.Like a classicist, Eliot has said that uncontrolled feelings can never produce ordered literature. He thinks that such kind of feeling only produces chaotic literature. So a poet or a writer should be conscious of the pastness of the past and also its presence. Both the past and the present are modified by each other. As the past is altered by the present, the present is also modified by the past. Thus both the past and the present are reciprocated. A poet must have the knowledge of the contemporary literary trend. He always should be conscious of his contemporary literary trend. He always should be conscious of his composition. He should not act as a bad poet. A bad poet is usually unconscious where ought to be conscious and conscious where he ought to be unconscious.Eliot says that a good poet should not be the most scholarly. A good poet must have learning from the past. The conscious reading or acquaintance of the past can make him a good poet. In this respect, Eliot has drawn an example. He says that Shakespeare learnt more only from Plutarch that most people could learn from the whole British Museum. Shakespeare is also indebted to Homer, Chaucer, and even Thomas Kyd. He has become Shakespeare only for the extensive study of the past. So a rising writer should follow example. He should learn from it.A critic should criticise the poetry of a poet but not the poet himself. He must criticise honestly and sincerely. In this respect, Eliot says--"Honest criticism and sensitive appreciation is directed not upon the poet but upon the poetry."Thus he has shown what a writer should do and should not do. As a teacher of the poets, critics and writers, Eliot has given some lessons to the budding writers.However, Eliot says that a constant and continual awareness of tradition is important and necessary for a poet. He also says that a critic should be sincere in criticism. In this way, he gives some lessons to the budding writers. He advises them to a great extent.


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