T.S. Eliot’s London and/or London’s T.S. Eliot

Moderator: Michael Wolff
Time: Wednesdays, 10 am–noon
Place: Applewood, 1st Floor Meeting Room, One Spencer Drive, Amherst
Parking: Ample parking on site; please park on the outside curve of Spencer Drive, not in the parking lot!

To study both my hometown and my once favorite poet. The Wasteland (1922) is mainly about London and perhaps his greatest early poem. Born St. Louis 1888, died London 1965, he was a committed reactionary but also probably a genius.

Eliot called himself “an Anglo-Catholic in religion, a classicist in literature, and a royalist in politics”.

We’ll study The Wasteland and read a standard biography (his two marriages, his friendships with W.B. Yeats, Groucho Marx, his probable anti-semitism, etc.). Readings may include The Love-Song of J. Alfred Prufrock; one or more of The Four Quartets; The Hollow Men; one or more short poems; one or more plays (Murder in the Cathedral, The Cocktail Party); one or more essays (Notes towards the Definition of Culture, The Idea of a Christian Culture); Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats.

We will decide in advance how to study London: chronologically, theologically, teleologically, phenomenologically, metaphorically, geographically, or some combination of the above. We may focus on the working-class East End but his deepest love was for London’s churches (which also figure in some resonant folk-verses).

Format: Seminar

Role of participants: Each participant will choose an hour between the second and next-to-last sessions of the seminar and lead a discussion about one of the works of T. S. Eliot and will take part in the discussions led by other participants.

Number of participants (including the moderator): 16

Resources: Will choose texts later when I have a better idea of what people want to read. We will refer to Christopher Logue’s London in Verse.

The Moderator: I’ve moderated many seminars from London World City to Oscar Wilde: Strange Genius. A native Londoner, I have degrees from Cambridge and Princeton. For over 60 years my field of research has been Victorian Britain.