The Medieval Poetics of Pilgrimage and Multiple Voices
Medieval and Early Modern English Studies, Volume 15 No. 2 (2007)
Scholars have long sought to identify the sources of T. S. Eliot’s poetic development, a search that seems invited by th poet’s essays on such as Dante, Spenser, Shakespeare, and Pope. However, occasionally obscure those ties which are less explicitly referenced. Eliot’s poetry “modifies” our understanding of Chaucer’s verse, and thus the works of these poets can be understood as exerting a reciprocal “influence” on one another. Moreover, it cannot be overlooked that Eliot had the particular advantage of studying Chaucer’s poetry prior to embarking on his own poetic career, and this advantage is clearly intimated in Eliot’s early verse. Eliot never discussed his debts to Chaucer, nor is Chaucer included among the dozens of writers cited in Eliot’s Notes to The Waste Land. However, in his 1926 review of Root’s Troilus and Criseyde, Eliot argued that “the whole stock of critical commonplaces about Chaucer must be reinventoried “reinventory” of “critical commonplaces about Chaucer” in his 1909 course at Harvard. It has been the intent of this study to “measure” Eliot’s own poetry against that of Chaucer’s, without privileging the work of either. Such a comparison yields insight into both poets’ works.