Eliot Response

In T. S. Eliot’s essay, “Tradition and the Individual Talent,” he consistently mitigates the importance of an artist (poet or author) and the artist’s originality. Eliot believes that that the artist should simply be viewed as a medium to the development of a work rather than the work being a representation of the artist. He defines his impersonal theory as a “continual surrender” by the author that values tradition, rather than personal emotions, to create greatness.

This continual surrender in turn leaves the work to be an extrapolation, rather than an imitation, of traditional art. Eliot believes that in order to understand the formation of art relating to tradition, an artist my exhibit great labour to developed this historical sense. The historical sense is another decentralization tactic to steer the assessment of a work’s greatness from the author to the work itself.

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Eliot believes that a work can only be viewed by its owns merits it does not have the personal influence of the author. Though Hemingway’s stripped-down, minimalistic style allows the reader to view his work as its own rather than finding a deeper meaning relating to Hemingway’s life, Eliot would find it problematic since it seems to diverge from traditional literature. Eliot’s problems with Hemingway’s work are stimulated when readers actively attempt to use Hemingway’s legend to heighten the greatness of his work.

As an example, viewing Jake Barnes in The Sun Also Rises as Hemingway would be problematic to Eliot since the work loses its impersonality. Considering the questions Eliot would have about Hemingway’s adherence to tradition (his modern writing style juxtaposed traditional styles) and the possibility that Hemingway injected his personal life into this text, one must suspect that Eliot would state that Hemingway’s work lacks novelty.

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