Modernism in literature appeared at the end of the 19th century, and the beginning of the 20th one. It was a counter move against traditionalism in poetry, and modernist writers experimented with the poems style. New methods were introduced, such as "fragmenting " the poem, language-blending, use of allusions, and of the free verse. One of the greatest writers of the period is Thomas Sterns Eliot. Some of his greatest poems include "The Waste Land ", "The Hallow Men ", and "Four Quartets ". T. S. Eliot was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1948.
"The Waste Land " was published in 1922, and is thought to be one of the most representatives works of modernist literature. The poem incorporates many elements of the said current. T. S. Eliot renounces traditionalist methods and creates a fragmented work that is filled with unrelated references to mythology, history and religion, with many languages blending together. In this essay I will comment on some of the references he has made in the first canto "The Burial of the Dead " and explain how they represent the society of that time.
The epigraph lies in Petronius' "Satyricon ". He mentions the sibyl, an Ancient Greek oracle who was granted immortality by Apollo. In this quote, Sibyl desires to die because she has seen the terrifying future; the same future and collapse of civilization that Eliot describes in his work.
In the beginning of the poem, we find a reference to Chaucer's "Canterbury Tales ". While for Chaucer, April was a time of hope and spiritual renewal, Eliot describes it as "the cruellest month " (line 1). Also, what is interesting about his choice in the first words of the opening line is that April comes from the Latin term aperire which means to open.
Line 12, "Bin gar keine Russin, stamm' aus Litauen, echt deutsch "(loosely translated "i am not Russian, I come from Lithuania, I am a true German "), suggests that, after World War I, people have lost their sense of national identity.