The Introduction provides the literary and methodological context out of which T.S. Eliot's lifelong preoccupation with Early Modern literature arose. It presents the significance of Eliot's writings on Early Modern drama (principally) and poetry for subsequent critics and writers, but takes into consideration his own contention that his views of the Early Modern canon were themselves derived from the critical context just prior to his own work. The importance of late nineteenth-century ideas about Early Modern writing upon him is described, mainly through consideration of a connection between the criticism and the novel Marius the Epicurean by Walter Pater. The later part of this opening discussion makes the case for the book's methodology, by arguing, contra various scholars, that Eliot's knowledge of the literary and critical resonances of the earlier literature impacted on his imagination and determined the development of his poetry and drama.
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