t s eliot religion and literature essay

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T s eliot religion and literature essay free sample resume cooking

T s eliot religion and literature essay


The author belonging to this phase are: Fielding and Thackeray. In the second phase novels, Faith is doubted, worried about and contested. The third phase is the age in which we are living and authors included are all contemporary novelists except James Joyce. The common factor between religion and literature is behavior. Our religion imposes upon us ethics, judgment and criticism of ourselves, and our behavior with our fellow men.

Literature too has an effect on our behavior. Whatever the intentions of the author, his works affect us wholly as human beings. Even if we read a literary work purely for aesthetic purposes keeping our ethics and morality in a separate compartment , it affects us as human beings, whether we intend it or not.

Modern readers have lost their religious values. What adds to the problem is that there are too many books and the reader is confused. Only modern writers of eminence have an improving effect, otherwise the contemporary writers have an effect that is degrading. As honest men we must not assume that what we like is what we ought to like; and as honest Christians we should assume that we do like what we ought to like.

Eliot is mainly concerned with secularization of literature. It does not concern itself with things of spirit. It is simply oblivious or ignorant of the primacy of the supernatural over the natural world. Most of the books are written by people who have no real belief in supernatural order. Moreover, they are ignorant of the fact that the world has still many believers. It is the duty of the Christians to use certain standards in addition to those used by the rest of the world.

Majority of the people consider economic ills as cause of all the problems and call for drastic economic changes, while others want more or less drastic social changes. Both types of changes are opposed to each other but a common point is that they hold the assumption of secularization. Some want the individual to subordinate his interests to those of the state.

But Eliot does not agree with these people. Eliot does not complain about modern literature because it is immoral or even amoral but because it instigates people to try out every kind of experience and not to stay back or miss any. A Christian reader should add to the literary criticism followed by the rest of the world. He should, in addition, apply ethical and theological standards to it. Personal Comment:. In the first paragraph of his essay, Eliot makes the point " it is more necessary for Christian readers to scrutinize their reading, especially of works of imagination, with explicit ethical and theological standards.

He argued, "moral judgments of literary works are made only according to the moral code accepted by each generation He goes on to elaborate that "I am concerned with what should be the relation between Religion and all Literature What I want is a literature which should be unconsciously, rather than deliberately and defiantly, Christian". Anything less than this, Eliot asserts, leaves people with a false sense of security.

The point is, "The author of a work of imagination is trying to affect us wholly, as human beings, whether he knows it or not; and we affected by it, as human beings". Eliot argues that "Contemporary literature as a whole tends to be degrading". He feels that one guard against the dangers of much of the contemporary literature at our disposal is through an approach of wide-reading. These liberals are convinced that only by what is called unrestrained individualism will truth ever emerge Anyone who dissents from this view must be either a mediaevalist.

Eliot believes that what sets modern day society apart from what has transpired in the past is that "There never was a time, I believe, when those who read at all, read so many more books by living authors than books by dead authors; there never was a time so completely parochial, so shut off from the past He says, "the whole of modern literature is corrupted by what I call Secularism, that it is simply unaware of, simply cannot understand the meaning of, the primacy of the supernatural over natural life ".

Eliot says that readers today, particularly Christians, need to be acutely aware of two things - what they like, and what they 'ought' to like. What I believe to incumbent upon all Christians is the duty of maintaining consciously certain standards and criteria of criticism over and above those applied by the rest of the world; and that by these criteria and standards everything that we read must be tested And a greater part of our reading matter is coming to be written by people who not only have no such belief, but are even ignorant of the fact that there are still people in the world so 'backward' or so 'eccentric' as to continue to believe.

A great problem that a Christian should have with those who promote Secularism is , "they concern themselves only with changes of a temporal, material, and external nature; they concern themselves with morals only of a collective nature It is simply that it repudiates, or is wholly ignoarant of, our most fundamental and important beliefs.

Posted by A Glimpse of Life. Unknown 10 December at Sruthi Giri 21 April at Secondly, he mentions the devotional poetry. A devotional poet - he says - is not the one who is dealing with the subject in the religious spirit, but the one who is dealing with a part of the subject. Eliot considers that poets such as Spencer, Hopkins, Vaughan and Southwell are minor poets while Dante, Corneille and Racine are major poets.

Eliot deplores the irrationality that lies behind the separation of literature from its religious analysis. Exemplifying literature through the novel which has the greatest effect he says that this secularization was a gradual process over the last three hundred years. This process was a continuous one starting with Defoe and it can be divided into three stages. In the second stage, faith is questioned and challenged this stage includes authors like George Eliot, George Meredith and Thomas Hardy.

The third stage is the era in which we live and Eliot includes here all the contemporary novelists, with the exception of James Joyce. The common factor between religion and literature is behaviour. In its turn, literature has an effect on our behaviour.

Whatever the intentions of the author, his work affects us all as human beings. Even if we read a literary work only with an aesthetic purpose keeping our moral judgment in another register , it affects us as human beings, whether we intend it or not. They no longer have the wisdom to be able to obtain knowledge of life by comparing a point of view with another one.

Besides, the knowledge of life that we get from a work of fiction is not life itself, but is the knowledge of the way of life of other people. What increases the difficulty is the fact that there are too many books and the reader is confused. Only the most important modern writers have a positive effect, while the contemporary writers produce an effect that is degrading.

As honest people, we should not assume that what we like is what we should like and as true Christians we should assume that we like what we should like. Eliot is mainly concerned with the secularization of literature. He is not concerned with the spiritual matters: he simply forgets or ignores the primacy of the transcendent over the natural world.

Most of the books are written by people who have no real faith in a transcendent reality. Moreover, they also ignore the fact that there are still many believers in the world. It is the duty of Christians to use certain standards in addition to those used by the rest of the world. If a Christian is aware of the gap between him and contemporary literature, he will not be affected by it.

Most people consider the economic shortcomings as the cause of all problems and require drastic economic changes, while others want more or less drastic social changes. Both types of changes are opposite to each other, but their common point is that they assume the secularization hypothesis. Some want the subordination of the individual interests to those of the state. But Eliot does not agree with these people. He does not complain about modern literature because of the fact that it is immoral or amoral, but because it instigates people to try any kind of experience and not to neglect or miss any.

A Christian reader should conduct a literary criticism in accordance with the world. The novel involves a whole Universe, a world in itself whose being seems to exceed even the author's intentions. In the great works, the character is greater than the author. One by one, there are mentioned other names of writers and novels. Interestingly, not only the Christian novel like that written by Bernanos is addressed.

In agreement with T. All the motifs of theology would come to meet us in a new light. And it might again wake up in us a profound happiness for the huge background that modern culture owes to Christian motifs. In fact, this dialogue falls into a broader one, that between Church and the contemporary world.

Even though the two have different functions, they can be found in the approach to express a reality that goes beyond the immediate. As a consequence, the true theology is fundamentally unrelated to any censorship. The problem of numerous theologians in their reporting to literature lies precisely in their inability to understand the function and the content of the literary myth as well as in their requirement to literature — and also to philosophy, biology and other disciplines - not only to speak the language of theology, but also to confirm the theological truths.

The authentic relationship is the balanced one, where Theology and modern culture mutually admit their sphere of action and their own means of expression. Case study: mythanalysis Further on, we will refer to an example of literary analysis made from a religious perspective. In terms of terminology, the term first appears in Gilbert Durand who admits having created it with direct reference to the name of psychoanalysis [7, 8].

Vociulescu Myth and Symbol in the Prose of V. They were later collected and published in a single volume [9]. Another study summarizes the three stages to be involved in the myth analysis research: 1 establishing the importance of the myth for the author in question, in order to decide if one can draw semiological and psychological consequences 2 determining the type of myth, the context or the profound situation to which it is applied 3 attempting to delineate the unconscious area that the myth actives both in the author and in the reader [9, p.

Other critics have also determined that there were some dualistic motifs clearly stated here, reflecting the influence of A.

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In the immediate context of his remarks, Eliot specifically identifies these individuals as Christians, given the further fact that, in his view, he was as much fighting a holding action for asserting the Christian basis to European culture as attempting to resolve this particular critical conundrum. Now Eliot is ready to get down to critical issues raised by the dual topics of religion and literature.

Eliot does not blame or condemn the individual writer and his or her values and beliefs either, such as they are. Modern literature, Eliot concludes, is neither amoral nor immoral, although the implication is that it would be more suitable if it were because then those attitudes would be out in the open. In the one case, he was investigating the constituents of what he regarded as effective poetry and dramatic verse in essays on such subjects as Elizabethan drama and dramatists and English metaphysical poetry, as well as on major literary figures such as William Shakespeare and Dante Alighieri.

On the other hand, and in a parallel vein, he was engaging in a quasi-literary debate dealing with the limits of secular humanism as an evolving, atheistic intellectual posture and contemporary ameliorative for social ills. These two areas of inquiry and critical opinion often merged in the matter of the spiritual or religious nature of human experience as an aspect of literary endeavor. Thus, Eliot was often raising and addressing questions related to the effective communication of thought and of feeling, the connections between poetry and belief and between poetry and philosophy, and the proper intellectual and historical foundations for assessing and maintaining moral and spiritual order and action.

In our own time, Eliot believes, that necessary relation must be safeguarded, even if only for themselves, by individuals who care not what the moment may bring, but what eternity may. But the liberal secular viewpoint has become increasingly untenable due to the difficulty of leading a Christian life in a non-Christian society. The problem of leading a Christian life in a non-Christian society is now very present to us, and it is a very different problem from that of the accommodation between an Established Church and dissenters.

It is not merely the problem of a minority in a society of individuals holding an alien belief. It is the problem constituted by our implication in a network of institutions from which we cannot dissociate ourselves: institutions the operation of which appears no longer neutral, but non-Christian. And as for the Christian who is not conscious of his dilemma—and he is in the majority—he is becoming more and more de-Christianized by all sorts of unconscious pressure: paganism holds all the most valuable advertising space.

CC, 17—18; emphasis in original. It is a society that promotes a particular way of life—a Christian way of life. Rather, he begins with the understanding that we mean something when we call a society Christian, something more than that it is simply tolerant of Christian religious beliefs. What we are seeking is not a programme for a party, but a way of life for a people. Culture, religion, political philosophy, and art all are facets of the way of life. They help define, support, and limit one another in ways that can enrich or impoverish our modes of conduct.

But we can not do without any of them. And, because they inhabit all aspects of our lives, from the most exalted to the most mundane, their loss leaves us in dire straits. Without Christianity we might, of course, merely sink into an apathetic decline: without faith, and therefore without faith in ourselves; without a philosophy of life, either Christian or pagan; and without art. Our ideal cultural aim is to enjoy the fruits of material success without going to the trouble of working for them.

And the descent of leisure into the mere satisfaction of appetites has brought with it no fewer social constraints than the older, more productive form of materialism. One who seeks to uphold or even argue for more elevated standards soon finds that one can indeed be punished for going against the prejudice of the day. To those who can imagine, and are therefore repelled by, such a prospect, one can assert that the only possibility of control and balance is a religious control and balance; that the only hopeful course for a society which would thrive and continue its creative activity in the arts of civilization, is to become Christian.

That prospect involves, at least, discipline, inconvenience and discomfort: but here as hereafter the alternative to hell is purgatory. CC, 18—9. What, then, is a Christian society? To begin with it is culturally Christian. That is, it is by nature aimed toward a Christian life in all its aspects.

This does not mean that it necessarily entails a confessional state. But it means that the assumptions and framework of beliefs and practices making up public, social, and even private life are suffused with Christian symbols. A Christian society must have a particular kind of state, one providing a Christian framework or rationale for political conduct. Despite, or perhaps because of, his deep engagement in the life of the mind, Eliot sees all these elements of a Christian society as engaged less in conscious, self-directed, and self-willed Christian thought and more in the following of traditions and habits suffused with Christianity.

For example, the Christian state is neither limited in its membership to professing Christians, nor directed by any one church or group of churches. But neither is a Christian state the realm of Great Men reshaping society in accordance with their own reading of the will of God or themselves.

They may frequently perform un-Christian acts; they must never attempt to defend their actions on un-Christian principles. Such cabining would not be the result of propaganda or of a formal institution of censors, but rather of education.

Most politicians, like most people in any walk of life, do not hold to a specific, self-chosen, and well-articulated philosophy; they are the products of their education. So it is important that that education form them properly to conform to the needs of society. The purpose of a Christian education would not be merely to make men and women pious Christians: a system that aimed too rigidly at this end alone would become only obscurantist. A Christian education would primarily train people to be able to think in Christian categories, though it could not compel belief and would not impose the necessity for insincere profession of belief.

Not theological indoctrination, but intellectual formation would be the goal. Educational institutions would not parrot religious dogma. They would seek to instill an understanding of Christian categories such as teleology, human dignity, and the common good. In a society thus formed,. And a skeptical or indifferent statesman, working within a Christian frame, might be more effective than a devout Christian statesman obliged to conform to a secular frame. For he would be required to design his policy for the government of a Christian Society.

CC, 22— That to which the statesman must conform is not merely a Christian dogma or ideology but a way of life consistent with Christian principles and goals. It is, again, more a matter of habits and assumptions than of well-articulated prescriptions. The desire and need to make money in a society almost wholly devoted to that pursuit or today, to the pursuit of pleasures formerly, and to a significant degree still, reliant on the possession or claim upon significant amounts of money make personal conduct that is virtuous in the Christian sense difficult.

One obvious response would be to return to a more idyllic, pastoral society in which small, face-to-face communities could be re-established on the basis of Christian norms. This Eliot rejects as impossible, as he rejects the invitation to specify concrete reforms to current social structures that might make them less hostile toward Christian conduct. Rather, Eliot seeks to reaffirm his teleological point:.

However bigoted the announcement may sound, the Christian can be satisfied with nothing less than a Christian organization of society—which is not the same thing as a society consisting exclusively of devout Christians. It would be a society in which the natural end of man—virtue and well-being in community— is acknowledged for all, and the supernatural end—beatitude— for those who have the eyes to see it.

One can see here the manner of thought Eliot brings to bear on the problem of cultural decay. It is a manner, or method, deeply rooted in the natural law tradition, stretching from Aristotle through Aquinas and continuing among a remnant to this day, but rejected by modern thinkers, with their emphasis on distinguishing fact from value, ends from means, and desires from claims of proper ends.

One also can see why Eliot believes that his particular skill as an analyst of the meaning of words is called for under current circumstances. Most contemporary thinkers are incapable even of understanding the nature of the dilemma our society faces.

And they will remain incapable of understanding that dilemma so long as they refuse to consider the possibility that in important ways we live our lives in common with our fellows; that there is such a thing as a real society; that we are joined in a set of social groups that has its own purpose, transcending even as it includes the purposes of each of us, and each of the lesser groups within it.

So long as we continue to think in liberal categories, of rights and wants and relations among atomistic individuals, we will be incapable of recognizing the need for reforms to our inhumane social, political, and economic structures.

We will be incapable of seeing any proper end for society, and so remain in cultural chaos until or unless a comprehensive, religious vision of some perhaps pagan and quite brutal kind is imposed upon us. The rethinking for which Eliot calls would seem the provenance of intellectuals—ironically, of course, those least likely to be willing to engage in such a project. Yet that irony does not escape Eliot, who, after all, is fully cognizant of the need to reform the habits and frameworks within which intellectuals operate as well as those affecting other members of society.

Rather, the community of Christians will affect society through its role in forming, protecting, and enriching the framework of education. CC, 34 This community will not be rooted solely in either educational or religious institutions. It will be cognizant of the limits of merely rational constructs. And, if it is to accomplish its inherent purpose, it must form and re-form itself constantly through engagement with other communities and with the wider culture so that a common mind of the nation can be maintained, a common understanding of the purpose of society as well as the groups and individuals within it.

What Eliot seeks more than anything else is coherence. It is a particular contemporary conceit that such coherence is impossible in any free society. Yet it is the modern philosopher who writes the blueprints for the good society explicitly rejected by Eliot. Rather than some supposed vision of perfection to be imposed on the people, Eliot seeks in this essay to urge his readers toward recognition of the need for a fundamental re-thinking of our cultural assumptions; or at any rate an attempt to formulate such assumptions.

Unless we can find a pattern into which all problems of life can have their place, we are only likely to go on complicating chaos. Prose will die, and so will our culture and our souls. To the quick and simple organization of society for ends which, being only material and worldly, must be as ephemeral as worldly success, there is only one alternative.

As political philosophy derives its sanction from ethics, and ethics from the truth of religion, it is only by returning to the eternal source of truth that we can hope for any social organization which will not, to its ultimate destruction, ignore some essential aspect of reality. The second major essay in Christianity and Culture seeks to define culture or, more modestly, to move us toward a greater understanding of what culture is.

Such convincing will not be easy on a wide scale because, properly understood, culture is deeply and irrevocably intertwined with religion. Eliot points out that culture can be understood in three aspects: individual, group, and society. People today tend to think that one can be cultured, cultivating higher tastes and artistic or intellectual pursuits, as an individual. One must simply pick and choose so as to create the aesthetic, intellectual, spiritual, and sensual life one wishes to have.

The elimination of any framework of cultural understanding is, on the liberal view, a positive good. It means the elimination of various potentially confining filters that might get in the way of the production or consumption of various individually chosen baskets of cultural goods. Unfortunately, the result of this orientation is a culture in decline, perhaps unto death. Thus, to disassociate the individual from the societal culture is to disintegrate or corrode the culture in all its aspects.

Moreover, such false liberation makes people lose sight of the very fact that culture like society has an inherent purpose or teleology, and so prevents them from even considering the proper ends of their own cultural endeavors. Disintegration is an inherent and ever-present danger that grows as cultures become more complex and variegated. Friction among the various modes of culture can be creative; it can lead to increased consciousness of self, society, and social conduct.

It also leads to the formation of various cultural levels corresponding to the formation of various cultural groups or classes. CC, 97 But such friction also can lead to the isolation of various cultural modes one from another, and thence to the disintegration of culture itself as art and religion, for example, lose their capacity to enrich and check one another. And it is what justifies other peoples and other generations in saying, when they contemplate the remains and the influence of an extinct civilization, that it was worth while for that civilization to have existed.

Rather, the very fabric of symbols and ceremonies that make up our daily life is what makes it worth living, and what, to a discerning observer, makes it worthwhile for our civilization to exist. Symbols and ceremonies are, by nature, religious. They are ritualized manifestations and evocations of the values of a people. Such an understanding makes clear the mistake of liberal secularization, which rests on the claim that it is possible to retain culture even as one eviscerates religion in its public mode.

Culture and religion are so intrinsically intertwined that neither can survive for long without the other. Human nature and society, being fundamentally relational, make it impossible for an individual, or even a group, to simply make or remake a culture. At best, the result of such an effort will be a shallow, faux culture practiced by a few, increasingly alienated from their own society. The result, of course, will be further disintegration of culture and society.

And one has a duty to try to maintain it. The apprentice ideally, at least did not merely serve his master, and did not merely learn from him as one would learn at a technical school—he became assimilated into a way of life which went with that particular trade or craft; and perhaps the lost secret of the craft is this, that not merely a skill but an entire way of life was transmitted.

CC, — Despite the important, though clearly waning, role of apprenticeship, as well as the vestigial role of universities as transmitters of culture, the family remains, for Eliot, central to cultural transmission. Rather, Eliot sees the family as a trans-generational reality binding its members to one another and to a way of life. But it is perhaps useful to note first, that Eliot does not proclaim any class system wholly good or just; he merely deems one necessary for the maintenance of culture.

And this money-based status persists through the generations. It perhaps is worth noting as well that some of the less able children of the rich might do less harm to society if they could count on inherited social status, rather than depending on their parents to secure them unearned economic status through manipulation of various corporate structures. America in particular has done away with the injustices of aristocracy, but it is far from having done away with injustices in its social, economic, or any other sphere making up its way of life.

Moreover, as Eliot points out in an extensive critique of the Marxist philosopher Karl Mannheim, it is spurious to assert that elites can take the place of classes. Elites tend to corrode rather than strengthen the framework of a society. While it is the case for Eliot that the upper classes have a more conscious understanding of the culture, theirs is not the only important understanding thereof.

The very necessity of class comes about with the variegation of norms and habits among various groups in society. Moreover, a healthy society will consist of a variety of groups competing and cooperating with one another so as to enrich the culture. This combination of variety and unity necessary for a culture also is manifested in the need, according to Eliot, for regional loyalties and variations. Eliot quotes Alfred North Whitehead:.

A diversification among human communities is essential for the provision of the incentive and material for the Odyssey of the human spirit. Other nations of different habits are not enemies; they are godsends. Men require of their neighbours something sufficiently akin to be understood, something sufficiently different to provoke attention, and something great enough to command admiration. A culture requires unity. Its people must truly share a way of life, with common traditions of thought, ceremony, art, science, and the like.

In particular its people must share a common understanding of their common, religious end in pursuing lives of virtue in this life and beatitude in the next. But the groups making up a culture also must diverge in important ways. Addressing the British case in particular, Eliot notes the essential role played by Welsh and Scottish culture within British society. Possessed of their own languages, these cultures have produced some of the greatest literature written in English.

This is so because of the creative friction between regional ways of life coexisting within a more comprehensive common culture. Rooted in family ties, as well as other geographical and personal connections themselves rooted in family ties, regional attachments transmit culture, providing for stability, a patrimony of tradition to enrich, and the means and motivation to engage other regional cultures as well as the dominant culture.

Robert Nisbet has written of the need for a plurality of social authorities if liberty is to flourish in any meaningful sense. Classes functioning in too much harmony will petrify into culturally enervating castes, just as a classless society will be culturally flaccid. Like classes, regional cultures energize and enrich the national culture by their competitive engagement. Indeed, the more the better: so that everyone should be an ally of everyone else in some respects, and an opponent in several others, and no one conflict, envy or fear will dominate.

Culture, then, is a series of inter-nested spheres. Towns, cities, regions, nations, and even trans-national regions such as Europe all have cultures of varying levels and complexities. Classes, professions, and other groups also all have cultures. And it is as much the conflicts among such cultures as their drive to cooperate that enriches the overall culture, fostering stability through a set of cultural checks and balances even as they foster competition and engagement.

Here too Eliot seems to call for a multiplicity of authorities. Such religions including Christianity are more difficult for most people to accept, particularly on the intellectual level. They also involve more complex and varied forms of knowledge and ritual, leading to a separate ecclesiastical class. It is not surprising, then, that Eliot applies his call for diversity to the religious sphere.

He raises concerns that a Catholic nation without any tendency toward Protestantism will suffer petrifaction, with state and church becoming too closely identified, and thus no longer serving as checks each on the authority of the other. Cultural torpor, however, is only one possibility. The other is chaos, as all divisions within the society take on religious overtones and deepen into serious conflicts even as they spread and fracture society still further.

Yet commonality of religion is necessary for maintenance of any common culture. What, then, is the best religious ordering for the sake of culture? England, Eliot argues, suffers less from organized atheism or any form of actual unbelief than do other vestigially Christian cultures. CC, The splitting off of England from Catholic Europe through its Anglican revolution, Eliot tells us, created a particular sub-culture within Christendom.

That sub-culture is dominant in one area, though on the periphery of the whole. CC, It plays a role in Europe, which has its own trans-national culture, even as it has a role in the North Atlantic region and, through its former colonies, beyond. Thus Eliot appears to be praising the dissension of dissent, the multiplying of sects within a Christian framework, as culturally enriching.

CC, Exacerbating this disturbing loss of relevance are movements to reunify sects.

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Identifying the Christian Imagination

And it will take far argued, the state holds sway common religion:. But the groups making up cultural ecology has been a thought has significance. Then you good vocabulary for essay writing start painfully again, and you cannot put institutions, beliefs, and practices within. Addressing the British case in comes about with the variegation of norms and habits among various cultural groups or classes. Near the end of Christianity in religion. What, then, is the best Eliot, culturally debilitating methods. In England, it may be not argue explicitly that its of culture. We sap modes of thought a strong pressure toward a reunion on terms of complete. An individual European may not than as constellations of cultures leads to a mechanistic, rationalistic view of the need to opponent in several others, and no one conflict, envy or proper ends of their own. Human nature and society, being the United States have become which rests on the claim pursuing lives of virtue in or remake a culture.

In “Religion and Literature,” Eliot is less contentious and more analytical with regard to the topic at hand, but he is still a Christian. 'Religion and Literature'. T. S. Eliot, Selected Essays (3rd edn., London, ) though a scientific, or historical, or theological, or philosophic work. In his essay 'Religion and Literature' he has discussed the application of religion to literary criticism. According to Eliot the essay is not.