T.S. Eliot And The Birth Of The Modern Poet

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This program was originally broadcast on December 15, 2015.

The great Christopher Ricks on the great T.S. Eliot. Practical cats and the way the world ends.

Writer Thomas Stearns Eliot and his wife, Valerie Eliot at Southampton, England, on March 16, 1959, on board the liner Queen Mary, from New York. (AP Photo)
Writer Thomas Stearns Eliot and his wife, Valerie Eliot at Southampton, England, on March 16, 1959, on board the liner Queen Mary, from New York. (AP Photo)

We know that April is the cruelest month, because T.S. Eliot told us so. And that the world ends “not with a bang, but a whimper.”  And that we measure out our lives with coffee spoons. The poet and playwright – St. Louis-born, London-burnished - towered over 20th century literature and modernism. He brought us “The Wasteland.”  He brought us – via Andrew Lloyd Weber – "Cats," on Broadway. He fell out of favor. Now, the great critic and editor Christopher Ricks brings T. S. Eliot back in a massive way. This hour On Point, T. S. Eliot again, in the hands of the great Christopher Ricks. -- Tom Ashbrook


Christopher Ricks, professor of humanities at Boston University and co-director of the Boston University Editorial Institute. Co-editor, with Jim McCue, of "The Poems of T.S. Elliot: Collected and Uncollected Poems" and "The Poems of T.S. Elliot: Practical Cats and Further Verses." Also author of "T.S. Elliot and Prejudice" and "True Friendship: Geoffrey Hill, Anthony Hecht, and Robert Lowell under the Sign of Eliot and Pound."

From Tom’s Reading List

Financial Times: Eliot and the echo-chamber -- "Academics, believes Ricks, can usefully comment and annotate. They cannot presume privileged supreme understanding. In their commentary, they can provide the necessary tools for understanding. This belief was made clear in Ricks’s majestically annotated edition of Tennyson’s poems, produced in his early career. It has, for 30 years, illumined and shaped responses to a poet whose reputation was at the time unfairly sunken."

The Wall Street Journal: Deciphering the Old Stones — "Christopher Ricks and Jim McCue have done many splendid things in this edition. First, and most important, they have left the poems to themselves in the front of each volume, relegating the small-print commentary to the hundreds of back pages. Second, they have omitted interpretation from their commentary, providing instead a superb set of background notes—quotations from letters, essays and primary source material selected with wit and insight."

New York Review of Books: ‘The Return of Foxy Grandpa’ — "For the anthropologist, the student occupied with the 'history of religions,' the term 'religion' is perfectly valid. It is not sufficiently understood—though it is simple enough—that the point of view of the anthropologist and of the theologian are quite different. They are not opposed: they are merely different; as different, and no more opposed, than the appearance of a house to someone who is inside and to someone who is outside it.

This program aired on December 28, 2016.


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