Graduation Year

2013

Graduation Month

May

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

School or Department

English

Faculty Mentor

Brady Harrison

Faculty Mentor Department

English

Faculty Reader(s)

Robert Baker

Keywords

modernism, feminism, poetry

Subject Categories

English Language and Literature

Abstract

T.S. Eliot has frequently been criticized for his misogynistic treatment of women in his poetry. Few, however, have considered the role his portrayal of women plays in supporting his poetic themes. The narrative space of “The Waste Land” is dominated primarily by women, both contemporary and mythical, who illustrate the brutal relationship between men and women. This intensely personal relationship, however, is analogous to the relationship of the individual and society; like the individual, the women must make the decision to either speak out against their oppressors or keep silent and accept their circumstances. Either option places women at risk of further subjugation. In this way, the wasted scenography of “The Waste Land” acts as the backdrop to a crippled social world populated by subjugated individuals struggling to find their voice. Eliot portrays the female voice as the struggle against the ruined communication that characterizes the modern world. Contemporary and mythical characters converge in the poem, revealing the ineffectiveness of communication in a world where power barriers exist between the sexes. By juxtaposing mythical women from Ovid’s Metamorphoses against the contemporary characters from “The Waste Land,” this paper will demonstrate how far the poem’s theme of social breakdown extends into our own society.

Honors College Research Project

Yes

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© Copyright 2013 James Warwood