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The T. S. Eliot Society held its 31st Annual Meeting in St. Louis from September 24-26, 2010. It’s hard to think of another modernist who so depended on magazines to establish his place in the literary field. Two papers at the meeting discussed Eliot and periodicals.
Matthew Vaughn’s paper, “You Cannot Value Him Alone”: The Waste Land in its Magazine Context,” suggested that Eliot’s editing of the first issue of The Critierion needs to be read as part of not just the context but perhaps even the text of The Waste Land. Vaughn did a reading of the entire issue to show how each contribution to Volume 1 number 1 fit into Eliot’s aesthetics and complemented his poem. Click here to read an abstract of the essay.
My own paper, “T. S. vs. F. S.: Eliot, Flint, and Magazine Modernism,” argued that in order to gain a deeper understanding of modernism we need to consider not only figures like Eliot and Woolf but ones like F. S. Flint, who once was a prominent figure in literary London. It’s not that we need to recover Flint as a poet and critic who is every bit as interesting and talented as Eliot and Woolf (he’s not), but that we need to understand why and, more interestingly, how they failed. I closed the paper by arguing that this work doesn’t need aesthetic evaluation so much as analysis of empirical data–some graphs and maps of Eliot’s and Flint’s careers.