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Thinking Through StyleNon-Fiction Prose of the Long Nineteenth Century$
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Michael D. Hurley and Marcus Waithe

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9780198737827

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780198737827.001.0001

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Vexing the Thoughtless

Vexing the Thoughtless

T. S. Eliot’s Early Criticism

Chapter:
(p.332) 20 Vexing the Thoughtless
Source:
Thinking Through Style
Author(s):

Stefan Collini

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780198737827.003.0021

T. S. Eliot’s early criticism is, notoriously, marked by various forms of calculated outrageousness. This chapter maps the fine line that Eliot treads in his reviewing between offending and seducing his readers as he seeks not just to recommend, but also to model, a more rigorous and probing form of criticism than that normally to be found in the literary journalism of the time. It concentrates on the review-essays he wrote for the Athenaeum in 1919–20, the work which announced his arrival as a significant critical voice in literary London. It shows how the various characteristics of Eliot’s early critical prose—its ability to seem deeply scholarly though not in the least academic, its allusiveness, its appeal to self-evidence in the use of quotations—served, in effect, to discriminate among the various publics for such writing, where he avowedly aimed both to ‘stimulate the reflective’ and to ‘vex the thoughtless’.

Keywords:   T. S. Eliot, the Athenaeum, literary journalism, review-essay, reading public, offensiveness, literary London

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