William Blake’s London and Eliot’s Waste Land (Seminar, 18th May)


Crop from illustrated manuscript of William Blake's poem, London

London, by William Blake [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

We’re delighted to welcome Professor Seamus Perry (University of Oxford) to present our next Inventions of the Text seminar. This will tease out the influence of William Blake upon T.S. Eliot’s seminal modernist poem, The Waste Land. The seminar takes place in the Department of English Studies on 18th May at 17.30; as space is limited, if you are not based at Durham University and wish to attend please email inventionsofthetext@gmail.com to check availability.

There are many presences in The Waste Land, whose diverse importance has been drawn out by commentators: Shakespeare, Dante, Virgil, Baudelaire. Another voice behind the poem is that of the English Romantic poet William Blake, who, with Baudelaire, is Eliot’s great precursor as the poet of the infernal city; but Blake’s poetic identity as a Londoner makes him an especially significant figure. As well as that, Blake possessed for Eliot what he called, in a memorable essay written while The Waste Land was brewing, “the unpleasantness of great poetry”. What did Eliot learn about the uses of unpleasantness from Blake?

Future Inventions of the Text seminars will cover topics including Evelyn Waugh, novels about the Indian mutiny, Shelley’s poetry, and video games and modernism.

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