G. Douglas Atkins here offers an original consideration of T. S. Eliot's essay as a form of embodied thinking. A combination of literature and philosophy, the genre of the essay holds within itself a great tension--that between truth and creative prose. And, as Atkins explains, these conflicting forces of truth and creativity exist not only within the literary format itself but also within the writers and their relationships with the genre, making essay writing a wonderfully enriching "impure art." Exploring the similarities between Eliot's prose and poetry with the art of essay writing, Atkins discovers remarkably similar patterns of Incarnational thinking that emerge in each. In so doing, he establishes for the first time the essayistic nature of the great poem Four Quartets and provides an eloquent reflection on how the essay in all its impurity functions as Incarnational art, an embodiment of truth.
G. Douglas Atkins is Professor of English at the University of Kansas. His previous books include Reading Essays: An Invitation and Tracing the Essay: Through Experience to Truth. He lives in Lawrence, Kansas.
Preface Introduction: Eliot the Essayist 1. Against (Pure) Transcendence: The Essay and Embodied Truth 2. Eliot, Montaigne, and the Essay: The Matter of Personality 3. Turning the Essay: "Tradition and the Individual Talent" 4. The Perfect Critic and Imperfect Critics: The Essay, Criticism, and Impurity 5. Eliot's Prose Voice: The Critical Essayist as Medium 6. "Restoring / With a New Verse the Ancient Rhyme" 7. Four Quartets: The Poem as Essay 8. The Impure Art of Four Quartets: Where Literature and Philosophy Meet ConclusionaFaring Forward, Exploring Still: Participation Instead of Puritan's Progress Notes Works Cited Index