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The Beauties of T. S. Eliot
A public lecture in The Persistence of Beauty Lecture Series.
This lecture series is organised by the Romantic Dialogues and Legacies research group in Durham's Department of English Studies, and supported by the University's Institute of Advanced Study.
Focusing on British, Irish, and American authors (including Hart Crane, W.H Auden, George Eliot, W. B. Yeats, Louis MacNeice, Walt Whitman) of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, this lecture series reflects on the ways that the Romantic and Post-Romantic imagination aspires towards an idealised notion of the beautiful as a harmonious, often transcendent, perfection to discover that such an ideal conception of beauty can only be represented through an ironic mode of representation. This ironic representation of beauty was bequeathed to later writers by the Romantic tradition and shows how an aspiration towards the beautiful confronts us with some of the most difficult and unbeautiful truths about the limitations of our contingent existences and the provisional nature of art itself. This realisation does not produce a diminishing commitment to the centrality of beauty for nineteenth- and twentieth- century writers and their aesthetic theories and practices but, if anything, renews and intensifies the persistent presence of the beautiful as the goal and shaping force of both Romantic and Post-Romantic writing.
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