Cultural Aspects of Modernistic Poetry

Anton Pokrivčák, University of Ss Cyril and Methodius, Slovakia, ID LLCE2017-187;     Abstract: The concepts of modernism and postmodernism, the two ruling cultural “ideologies” of the twentieth century, gave rise to a wide variety of critical approaches to the study of literature, many of which take one far beyond the realm of literary studies - to philosophical, political, or sociological contexts. One of its consequences was also the emphasis on non-conformism, anti-conformism, anti-essentialism, etc. Traditionally, modernism is thus understood as a “departure” from the nineteenth century ethical and biographical approaches and an “embrace” of provocative formal and semantic innovations. While some artists went in the direction of extreme formalism, others attempted to express the post WWI disillusionment through the imaginative and symbolic re-thinking of cultural history of their nation or Europe as such. 

As for Anglo-American authors, they fitted in to the overall trend in Europe to reflect on the changing cultural, political as well as economic conditions and revise the role of art in the life of society. More specifically, it is agreed that there are two important attitudes the American authors adopted when confronted with the new artistic avantgardes. One group stayed at home and explored the American themes, while other (like Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot) took active part in forming the avantgardes in European capitals. The paper explores the relationship between the concepts of culture and art in the work of one of such cosmopolitan Americans, T. S. Eliot. It draws on Eliot´s critical essays, mainly his Tradition and the Individual Talent, as well as on some of his later poems. The aim is to show how he came to terms, poetically or critically, with certain cultural concepts of the post WWI Europe, stressing the fact that the poet´s relevance for the present time has not diminished, but, on the contrary, increased.