E.K. Sparks
Dept of English
Clemson U
Fall 1998

Abyss Notes for ReadingT.S. Eliot's
"Tradition and the Individual Talent"(1919)


The title announces the two main parts of the essay: Part I is about"tradition": Part II is about "the individual talent." Which is Eliot more in favor of?

PART I

1) the idea of"tradition" as a kind of organic entity in itself-- as if literature existed in, even created its own world;

2) the idea that the literature of the present can change (our perception) of the literature of the past. How does this work? Can you think of any contemporary work of literature you have read which changed how you saw an earlier work? This also works for film. Can you think of an example of a parody film which fundamentally changes the way you look at the original? If you know anything about Eliot's poetry, can you see this process working in, say,"Prufrock" or The Waste Land?

PART II