Saturday, 31 March 2012

T.S. Eliot's Discussion about Tradition

T.S. Eliot has divided his famous essay Tradition and the Individual Talents into three parts. In first part he has discussed about Tradition, in the second part he has mentioned about Impersonal Theory or Theory of Impersonality and in his last part he has discussed the summary of the whole writing. 
Tradition: Tradition is a matter of much wider significance, which should positively be discouraged. In other word it can be explained that, tradition is a belief, custom, story or practice handed down from generation to generation by demonstration or word of mouth.
In the true sense of the term, it cannot be inherited and there is no shortcut way to obtain it. By hard labor is can only be obtained. Here this labor is the labor of knowing the first writers. It is critical labor of shifting the good from the bad and of knowing what is good and useful. Tradition can be obtained only by those who have the historical sense. The historical sense involves a perception not only of the pastiness of the past, but also of its presence.   

Historical Sense: Historical sense is the sense of the timeless and the temporal, as well as of the timeless and the temporal together. A writer, who has much sense of tradition, is fully conscious of his own generation, of his place in the present, but he is also actually conscious of his relationship with the writers of the past.

Dynamic Conception of Tradition: To emphasis the value of tradition, Eliot points out that no writer has his own value and significance in isolation. If we want to judge the work of a poet or the artist we must compare and contrast his work with the work of the poets and artists in the past. Such comparison and contrast are essential for the significance of a new writer and his work.  
Eliot’s conception of Tradition is a dynamic one. According to his view, tradition is not anything fixed and static. It is constantly changing, growing and becoming different from what it is. A writer in the present must seek guidance from the past; he must conform to the literary tradition. When a new work of art is created, if it is really new and original, the whole literary tradition is modified. The relationship between the past and the present in not one-sided; it is a reciprocal relationship. The past directs the present.

The Function of Tradition: The work of a poet in the present is to be compared and contrasted with the works of past and judged by the standards of the past. But this judgment does not mean determining the good or bad. The comparison is made for the purpose of the analyzers, and for forming a better understanding of the new. The past helps us to understand the present, and the present throws light on the past.

Sense of Tradition: The sense of tradition does not mean that the poet should try to know the past as a whole, take it to be a lamp or mass without making any discrimination. It does not also mean that the poet should know only few poets whom he admires. In the real sense, a sense of tradition means a consciousness. In other words, to know the tradition, the poet must judge critically what the main trends are and what are not. He must keep himself to the greatest poets alone.

Edited by: Mahbub Murad. Dhaka, Bangladesh. Cell: +8801919879309, +8801761519111. Email: 

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