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Selected Essays of T. S. Eliot, 1917-1932 Essay | Critical Essay #5

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Critical Essay #5

"Language," adds Eliot, is always "a development of reality as well," and whenever "language shows a richness of content and intricacy of connections," these "are as well an enrichment of the reality grasped. For if a symbol were to be plucked from the soil of experience, it would become "a symbol that symbolize[s] nothing"— ceasing to "be a symbol at all" and becoming instead "another reality . . . [consisting of] certain [idle] marks on paper."

Granting that "Swinburne was . . . a master of words," for Eliot this particular mastery consists not in a finely honed skill which renders the object more precise, more concrete, more palpable, but rather in a massive talent for obscurantism—for shrouding the object in an impenetrable verbal haze. The distinctive quality possessed by Swinburne's words is the ability to radiate "suggestions" which scatter endlessly in all directions while pinpointing nothing with "denotation." "If...

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This section contains 1,140 words
(approx. 4 pages at 300 words per page)
Purchase our Selected Essays of T. S. Eliot, 1917-1932 Study Guide
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Selected Essays of T. S. Eliot, 1917-1932 from BookRags and Gale's For Students Series. ©2005-2006 Thomson Gale, a part of the Thomson Corporation. All rights reserved.
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