Veiled Theory: The Transmutation of Anthropology in T. S. Eliot's Critical Method

Paragraph 29 (3):77-94 (2006)

While literary criticism is often seen as an unself-reflective forerunner to literary theory, this article argues that T.S. Eliot's theory of critical practice was a philosophically informed methodology of reading designed to create a disciplinary and institutional framework. To reconstruct this theory, it enriches theoretical methodology with intellectual and institutional history. Specifically, the article argues that Eliot's early critical theory depended on the paradigms of anthropology and occultism, developed during his philosophical investigation of anthropology and Leibniz. From this investigation, Eliot created an occult project that used spiritual monads as facts to progress toward the Absolute. The article goes on to argue that Eliot's methodology of reading was shaped by anthropology's and occultism's paradigms of non-academic, non-specialist reading societies that sought a super-historic position in human history through individual progress. The reconstruction of Eliot's intellectual and institutional framework for reading reveals a historical moment with sharp differences and surprising similarities to the present.
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DOI 10.3366/prg.2007.0007
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