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An Ecocritical Reading of T.S. Eliot’s the Waste Land

Author XuJingCheng
Tutor NanGongMeiFang
School Beijing Forestry University
Course English Language and Literature
Keywords T.S. Eliot The Waste Land (TWL) Ecocriticism
CLC I561.072
Type Master's thesis
Year 2013
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As one of the new literary and cultural studies and an umbrella term for diverse theories, ecocriticism, emerging in the1970s, burgeoning in the late1990s, and currently thriving in its development, aims at exploring the relationship between literature and environment in order to find out the ecological wisdom in literary works so as to awaken the ecological consciousness of the contemporaries and the ecological commitments of protecting the environment. T. S. Eliot as a Modernist poet has enjoyed a widespread reputation and numerous works to his credit, and his masterpiece The Waste Land even has crowned him as the greatest poet in the twentieth century. Among a majority of Eliot’s studies in China and abroad, there have been only two papers conducted from the perspective of ecocriticism, and unfortunately, neither of them has discovered the ecological theme line revealed in the poem by the poet. This thesis, upon scrutinizing the poem, is to find the ecological theme hidden in the poem, and strives to probe, under this new trend of the literary and cultural criticism, comprehensively and interpretively into The Waste Land from the perspectives of natural ecology, social ecology and spiritual ecology.T.S. Eliot, by painting an ecologically unbalanced and unregenerated world in The Waste Land, exerts his distinctive talents and poetic gifts and creations to show his great contemporary ecological concerns and worries towards the dismal, alienated and deteriorate nature, degraded unbalanced society, and disconcertingly barren and empty human spirits, in pursuit of his admonishing the modern people to reflect and introspect the relationship between nature and human, between nature and society, and even the spiritually ecological balance and harmony within human beings. By reading Eliot’s The Waste Land in light of certain eco-critical ideas, it is discovered of the legacy glittering with ecological wisdom in his poem, where the poet attempts to resort to religion to save the ecological crisis revealed in the poem. His wisdom and worries are highly in response to his "environmental niches". Nowadays, with the increasing deterioration of the environment, Eliot’s ecological worries and wisdom implied in the poem is of tremendous significance, for greatly influenced by the western Christianity and driven by the religious crisis at his times, Eliot constitutes his tremendous endeavors, although full of historical limitation, to admonish modern people and try to persuade them to follow such religious doctrines as "giving","sympathy","control" to save themselves out of natural deterioration, the social indifference and degradation, the sea of lust, and the severe plight of spiritual barrenness, in pursuit of a poetically-dwelling on earth where the harmonies are achieved between nature and human, nature and society, and even within human beings themselves.

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