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Defamiliarization in T.S. Eliot’s Poetry

Author ZouJie
Tutor TuoJianMing
School Lanzhou University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords T. S. Eliot defamiliarization linguistic devices nonlinguistic techniques myth and religion
Type Master's thesis
Year 2007
Downloads 544
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Thomas Stern Eliot (1888-1965) is one of the greatest modernist poets in the history of English poetry as well as a celebrated critic of literature during the period between the two World Wars. His range of influence is often considered profound and everlasting. The most impressive aspect of his works lies in his endeavor to re-educate his readers through the use of languages and various other techniques. His poems go far beyond the common understanding of poetry, corresponding to the poetics of defamiliarization, and they have exerted great influence on modern poetry. Based on textual analysis, this thesis intends to explore how the affect of defamiliarization has been achieved in Eliot’s poetry.Following a brief introduction to the research work is the main body of the thesis that consists of three chapters:Chapter One begins with an analysis of the theoretical background of this thesis, like Eliot’s "impersonal theory," "objective correlative," and the concept of defamiliarization. Based on these theories, the author analyzes Eliot’s use of linguistic devices to achieve the effect of the defamiliarization. The poet’s choice of exotic words, the argot, and slang or vernacular words is in terms of evoking a level of strangeness. Eliot also employs realistic language and nursery rhymes or nonsense verses, and makes his characters to raise countless questions, and offers open texts with plural meanings. Through investigating these linguistic devices, the author advances the idea that Eliot’s poetry catches the reader’s eye by creating the effect of defamiliarization.Chapter Two focuses on the nonlinguistic techniques Eliot employs in his works. Victor Shklovsky’s theory of defamiliarization is applied to analyze how Eliot’s poems have been made stony. Eliot has transmuted his personal feelings into something strange and impersonal by means of literary images, allusions, and contrasts. The author selects some typical examples from Eliot’s works to support her idea, meanwhile offers a detailed analysis of his making strange by using various nonlinguistic techniques.Chapter Three further explores the special features of Eliot’s poetry besides his use of linguistic devices and nonlinguistic techniques. His predilection for words and symbols that are connected with mysticism and beliefs is to estrange common readers who do not share the predilection. This study examines his use of myths in the title and epigraph, the underlying myth as a structural framework, and his religious belief. By using myth, Eliot extends his personal feelings into something universal, his personal emotions are concealed in literary and anthropological materials and are transformed into mythic and refreshing poems. Because of the poet’s special religious awareness, the poems bear certain qualities beyond common approaches, and thus the process of appreciation is prolonged.The thesis concludes that T. S. Eliot has managed to make things new and created an intelligent new effect of defamiliarization through various literary devices. Eliot’s poetry can be viewed from a number of different perspectives: aesthetic, lyric, theological, philosophical, musical, and historical, this thesis draws attention to the new aspect of Eliot’s works from a new approach—the concept of defamiliarization. This research develops the study of defamiliarization on Eliot’s works.

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