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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.

Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.

Late Summer Lectures 2020

T.S. Eliot and the Anxious Body

2nd September 2020, 17:30 to 19:00, Online (Zoom), Cécile Varry (Université de Paris)

Since mental health has obtained as much attention and priority as physical health in recent years, this lecture will evaluate the anxious bodies seen in T.S. Eliot's poems and his reaction to their tension.

By Cécile Varry (Université de Paris)

The bodies in T. S. Eliot’s poetry need to calm down. They twist, clutch, cling, wriggle, sprout, and burn. In a word, Eliot’s bodies are anxious.

How do you soothe the anxious body? The drastic solution suggested at the start of Eliot’s first collection of poems (1917) is to put it to sleep artificially (‘Like a patient etherized upon a table’). This is followed by more violent approaches: head chopping, impaling, flattening; and finally, at the end of an irresistible seaward movement, drowning. But the body always comes back, it always clings on.

This paper explores Eliotic tension as something of the body, giving rise to a conflicted, overpowering desire for physical loosening.

Contact latesummerlectures@gmail.com for more information about this event.

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