Ascetic Modernism in the Work of T S Eliot and Gustave by Eliot, Thomas Stearns; Flaubert, Gustave; Gott, Henry

By Eliot, Thomas Stearns; Flaubert, Gustave; Gott, Henry Michael; Eliot, Thomas Stearns; Flaubert, Gustave

Gott examines Eliot’s The Waste Land (1922) along side Gustave Flaubert’s l. a. Tentation de Saint Antoine (1874). He presents a hugely unique interpreting of either texts and argues stylistic affinity exists among the 2 works

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The long tradition of regarding anti-realism as the dominant trait of Flaubert’s fiction originates with the author himself, and is by now well established, with critics such as Victor Brombert considering that ‘literary history has rendered Flaubert a poor service by … linking his name with 40 Ascetic Modernism in the Work of T. S. 270 It was with the emergence of modernism that Flaubert found an appreciative audience which prized those aspects of his worldview that had been odd or disconcerting to his contemporaries, sharing his extravagant estimation of art’s importance (both personally and culturally) and his impression of its inherent difficulty (both in terms of composition and reception) in the context of a world whose idea of progress seemed antithetical to production geared towards purely aesthetic ends.

In The Waste Land towers also play a significant role in transporting to a super-reality (‘upside down in the air were towers’ – l. 141 What is being tendered by such panoramic vistas is a vision of total knowledge. 143 If art could provide an escape, it should not, however, effect a complete separation; like the desert, the world it provided was not completely autonomous and still depended, in a redefined sense, on the world left behind. 144 Contempt for the world did not entail a complete removal from it.

S. 155 The evocation of burning rain relates also to the arrows that fall on his hero in ‘The Death of Saint Narcissus’, which in turn suggests the martyrdom of Saint Sebastian (the subject of another early poem), forging a link between religious and military askesis that defines the saint as both a physical and a spiritual hero. The saint was commonly figured as a ‘soldier of Christ’156 or an ‘athlete of virtue’,157 and this was an iconography on which Eliot and Flaubert both drew,158 even if their depiction was more in the vein of – as F.

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