Fri, Oct 20|
Location is TBD
Life of the Mind Seminar: John Whittier-Ferguson on T.S. Eliot (Registration Required)
Time & Location
Oct 20, 2023, 5:00 PM – Oct 21, 2023, 7:00 PM
Location is TBD
Registration Deadline is Friday, October 5, at 5 PM. Apply Here
- Seminar participation is limited to facilitate discussion in a spirit of intellectual freedom and mutual respect.
- Undergraduate and graduate students are especially encouraged to apply.
- Dinner is served at all seminars, and light readings will be assigned.
- You must complete a questionnaire to be considered for acceptance. Registrations close one week before each seminar.
About the Seminar
T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets: Questions and Practices of Faith at the End of the World
Writing in 1942, from England, at one of the darkest times of the Second World War, the poet T. S. Eliot acknowledges that he and his readers are not the first or the only people to find themselves forced to confront their own deaths and the ends of all that they have known. But anyone reading his poem in the third year of the war is in any case balanced unsteadily on the edge of a grave:
There are other places Which also are the world’s end, some at the sea jaws, Or over a dark lake, in a desert or a city— But this is the nearest, in place and time, Now and in England.
His phrase “this is the nearest” in the passage points specifically to the chapel at Little Gidding, a small village in Cambridgeshire that was the site of an Anglican religious community in the 17th century known for its integration of life and religious practice. Eliot’s Four Quartets, written and published between 1935 and 1942, is a theologically sophisticated, gorgeous, disturbing, profound, frightening, and (sometimes) comforting inquiry into whether and how faith might matter, particularly in a time of great suffering and terrible loss. These poems remain, in other words, poems important for our own fearful times as well. In our seminar, we will focus on selections from these poems, attending to their beauties and their mysteries. We will ask what we might learn from Eliot’s explorations.
John Whittier-Ferguson is a professor in the English Department at the University of Michigan, where he's been on the faculty since 1990. His most recent book, Morality and Form in Late Modernist Literature, was published by Cambridge in the fall of 2015. He is the author of Framing Pieces: Designs of the Gloss in Joyce, Woolf, and Pound (Oxford, 1996), and co-editor of James Joyce: Poems and Shorter Writings (Faber 1991). He has published in Modernism/modernity, Modern Fiction Studies, The James Joyce Quarterly, The Journal of Modern Literature, War, Literature & the Arts and elsewhere. He is the President of the International T. S. Eliot Society.