Revisiting "The Waste Land"


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Lawrence Rainey

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This groundbreaking book of literary detective work alters our understanding of T. S. Eliot’s poetic masterpiece, The Waste Land. Lawrence Rainey not only resolves longstanding mysteries surrounding the composition of the poem but also overturns traditional interpretations of the poem that have prevailed for more than eighty years. He shines new light on Eliot’s greatest achievement and on the poem’s place in the modern canon.
Far from the austere and sober monument to neoclassicism that admirers have praised, The Waste Land turns out to be something quite different: something grim and wild, unruly and intractable, violent and shocking and radically indeterminate, yet also deeply compassionate. Rainey looks at how Eliot went about writing the poem and at the sequence in which he composed the parts. Arriving at new insights into the poet’s intentions, Rainey unsettles tradition-bound views of the poem and shows us that The Waste Land is even stranger and more startling than we knew.

Lawrence Rainey is professor and chair in modernist literature, Department of English, University of York. He is the author of Institutions of Modernism: Literary Elites and Public Culture, published by Yale University Press. 

“[A] work of critical intelligence respectful of the literary sophistication of this full-grown Modernist… [It] is in the passages where Rainey demonstrates the ‘local, contingent, and retrospective’ nature of the poem’s composition that his research rises from original scholarship to creative criticism, entering sympathetically into the lyrical process and restoring the written fact of the poem to the reader.” - Jeremy Noel-Tod, Times Literary Supplement

"Revisiting The Waste Land will be an indispensable text for future readers of Eliot’s groundbreaking poem, for both its exhilarating scholarly revelations and its energizing recovery of the poem’s original uncanniness."—David Chinitz, author of T. S. Eliot and the Cultural Divide

"The most significant contribution to Eliot scholarship since the facsimile edition of the manuscripts appeared in 1971. Rainey finally and definitively solves the problems of composition and chronology that have eluded prominent scholars these thirty-three years, and places not only the poem but also the emergence of modernism itself on a new plane of understanding."—Ronald Schuchard, Emory University

"A remarkable piece of textual detective-work."—Jason Harding, Modernism/Modernity

Winner of the 2006 Robert Motherwell Book Award sponsored by the Dedalus Foundation
ISBN: 9780300123722
Publication Date: May 16, 2007
224 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
7 b/w illus.