Criticism and the Vichy syndrome : Charles Maurras, T.S. Eliot, and the forms of historical memory / by David M. Thompson.
This dissertation reconstructs the relationship between the Anglo-American poet-critic T. S. Eliot (1888-1965) and the French writer and political activist Charles Maurras (1868-1952). Eliot produced one of the few translations of Maurras's work into English, and his writings contain references that indicate an engagement with Maurras's ideas lasting from 1910, when Eliot lived in Paris, to at least 1948, when Eliot's tribute to Maurras appeared in a maurrassian newspaper. Despite these connections, there has been little detailed research into the relationship between these two writers and none that takes into account the full span of Maurras's long career. By examining Maurras's activities as Provencal regionalist, member of the classicizing poetic movement the Ecole romane, "Latinist" critic of Germanic conceptions of race, and leader of the royalist political group Action francaise, this dissertation ventures a rereading of Eliot's career through the lens of the causes that Maurras championed over the decades. One goal of foregrounding these causes is to displace the notion, common among scholars of modernism, that Maurras's conviction in 1945 justifies the ascription of fascist tendencies not just to Eliot but to the formalist aesthetics of which he is considered a chief progenitor. Such a reading obscures a number of crucial issues, issues that complicate our understanding of both the maurrassian perspective and the particular version of formalism to which it contributed. The last chapter examines the two writers' post-war reputations, drawing an analogy between Eliot's position in the literary canon and Maurras's position in the history of French political thought. By combining historical narrative with textual analysis and methodological critique, this dissertation elaborates upon a view of literary studies as a field in which various forms of resistance are exerted and later erased in the course of its ongoing attempt to write its own history as a discipline.
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