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Cardiff BookTalk: The Waste Land

Calendar Monday, 15 August 2022
Calendar 19:00-20:30

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Waste Land manuscript page and T.S. Eliot

Cardiff BookTalk is delighted to invite you to our event on Monday 15 August 2022, where we will be marking 100 years of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land. Celebrating the poem’s centenary with us are Dr Ruth Alison Clemens of Utrecht Univeristy, Dr Nicoletta Asciuto of the University of York, and Durham University’s Suzannah V. Evans

‘…I will show you fear in a handful of dust’ 

An endless river pours through an Unreal City of fragments and ghostly voices—Madam Sosostris reads the cards, while in rats’ alley the dead men lose their bones; snatches of music hall banter and pub gossip mingle with verses from Dante and The Upanishads; a marriage disintegrates, the Hyacinth Girl dreams of childhood, blind Tiresias make his prophecy and the dead file across London Bridge, while a drowned fisher king awaits… nothing. Welcome to the violently dislocated, parched and anguished London of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.

First published in 1922, The Waste Land has become recognised as one of the key texts of literary modernism. Completed in the aftermath of World War One and the Spanish Flu epidemic, the poem employs a technique of collage drawn from the visual arts and foreshadows later developments such as cinematic montage and the use of sampling in music. Dense with allusions to other writings both ancient and modern, the poem was born out of an experience of deep psychic turmoil, as though the entire history of western art and culture had broken down under the strain of collective trauma. Its impact established Eliot as one of the pre-eminent writers of the era. 

Born in St. Louis, Missouri in 1888, Thomas Stearns Eliot moved to England at the age of 25 and settled there for the rest of his life. In addition to his activities as a poet, he was a provocative critic and essayist and had great influence as an editor. From 1925 he worked at Faber and Faber, where he was instrumental in publishing writers such as W.H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Ted Hughes. Eliot wrote several plays, including Murder in the Cathedral and The Family Reunion and his poetry collection Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats supplied the libretto for Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical Cats. In 1948 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature.

Each of our speakers will present a 10-15 minute talk, and then there is an opportunity for audience questions and discussion. To make the most of the session, you may like to read The Waste Land and Other Poems by T.S. Eliot. Further recommended texts include Eliot’s poems Sweeney Agonistes, The Hollow Men and Four Quartets and his essay Tradition and the Individual Talent.

The event is free and open to all via Zoom. Book your place via Eventbrite.

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