A review of Seamus Perry’s “The Connell Guide to T.S.Eliot’s ‘The Wasteland.’ “

This slim volume is a powerhouse of literary criticism, energetically unlocking understanding to one of the richest, most challenging poems of the twentieth century,
‘The Wasteland’ shows T.S.Eliot getting exploring fracturing identities, individual, societal, national and international after the first great war. Humanity is left dislocated and locked in self defined prisons of individualism, longing for love but unable to make the surrender to reach it. The poem references classical literature, mythology, Shakespeare, Tennyson, and other poets, writers and anthropologists, merging their voices, then fracturing them, then re-casting them into hybrid narrators. The reader must use the footnotes Eliot provided and do their own digging, the poem becoming a terrifying vision, a case to solve and a gateway to literature and ideas all in one.
The Cornell Guide, written by Seamus Perry with admirable clarity at 121 pages, is a fantastic key to the enigmas of the Wasteland. It follows the acts of the poem and gives themed explorations, looking at what the poem is about, the importance of the references and use of other languages and what they mean, who the different characters are or represent, and whether or not we can consider it a pessimistic poem (the writer finds grounds for hope and some, some, optimism). There are also side-bars on the role of Ezra Pound, Eliot’s wife Vivien Eliot, and critical reception to the poem.
The book is a pleasure to read with its clear, accessible style, use of fonts, colours and apt and helpful illustrations.


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