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Mastery and Escape:
     T. S. Eliot and the Dialectic of Modernism

Rocky Mountain Review (1996):
“All serious scholars will welcome Brooker’s Mastery and Escape... This rich collection of essays displays Brooker’s talents as a teacher, reviewer, polemicist, intellectual historian, and literary critic. The strongest feature of the book comes from its author’s understanding of modernist culture... consistency rewarding.”

Journal of Modern Literature (1996):
“A dynamic collection that illuminates the aesthetic and philosophical backdrop to Eliot and his period... This book parallels what Kenner attempted in The Pound Era, but Brooker makes a more serious and substantial case for the early twentieth century being the Age of Eliot than Kenner advanced for his protagonist.”

“Brooker is a preeminent critical voice in this field. Her prose is incisive and self-confident... Her essays on 'Gerontion' and on Eliot’s dissertation are among the most intelligent... those works have received, and one on 'Four Quartets,' too, ranks very highly.”

“The two pedagogical essays..., offering a perspective... rarely linked with scholarship, ...make the reader envious of those fortunate enough to be students in Brooker’s courses on Eliot.”

University Bookman (Winter 1996):
“If humane learning is to recover its lost integrity it will begin with scholars who are prepared to... place their love of learning above every other academic temptation. One such scholar, Jewel Spears Brooker... is emerging as the most important scholar on Eliot in America, and she has just written a book that will further underscore that position. Its brilliance is not only literary but also social: she illustrates how modernism was as much a movement of letters, poems, and novels as it was a relation of that art to the broader culture.”

“Brooker elegantly weaves the artistry of the poetry into Eliot’s love of God, yet never sentimentalizes what was supremely an intellectual conversion.”

Yeats-Eliot Review (Winter 1997):
“Brooker’s Mastery and Escape... brings Eliot back from the mise-én-abyme to which overzealous critics... have too hastily consigned him... To read Brooker is to see in perspective almost the whole of twentieth-century thought, its continuities and discontinuities, from early Modernism through contemporary postmodernism... Some ways of knowing, reading, and being are richer and more valuable than others. Brooker documents that Eliot’s ways are among the most valuable; she also demonstrates that her own ways of reading and thinking are among the most useful... Her essays reveal a mind dedicated to teaching, to the encouragement and dissemination of knowledge.”

Geschichte der Literaturen: Englische Literatur, (1996):
“Brooker’s Mastery and Escape is to be recommended highly... Each essay offers an interesting combination of information and interpretation which... can serve as a model for... literary scholarship which, despite its extreme complexity, is able to answer pragmatic questions.”

Southern Review (Winter 1996):
“Brooker makes an eloquent bid to restore Frazer and Weston to Eliot studies... Most refreshing is her tact. Brooker brings a subtle light to Eliot’s overanalyzed poems by respecting their elusive mystery; her combination of rigorous close reading and wise modesty about the interpretive enterprise invites us to share in her love of her subject.”

“Her exposition... sparkles with her own insights.”

“Brooker’s explication of the difficult topic of Eliot’s debt to F. H. Bradley... is without parallel. Her reading of ‘Gerontion’ is brilliantly executed and... persuasive.”

Mastery and Escape is the work of a teacher. As intellectual history, it provides essential background by connecting modernism to nineteenth-century philosophy and science. Most happily, it succeeds in bringing Eliot’s intellectual contexts to bear on his poems... In their sane and resourceful fashion, Brooker’s readings delight and instruct.”

Studies in English Literature (Japan) (September 1996):
Brooker is “one of America’s best critics of modernism and the very best of critics of T. S. Eliot.”

“An essential collection for understanding T. S. Eliot and modern poetry.”

T. S. Eliot Society Newsletter (Summer 1996):
“This deeply satisfying collection of essays... conveys a complex yet highly unified understanding of modernism and one of its major figures.”

“Brooker’s essays are persuasive because they challenge... the dualistic, inevitably reductive, critical framework that has dominated the study of Eliot.”

“An impatience with reductive critical approaches also fuels Brooker’s insistence on greater critical rigor and precision. Her own compellingly high standard... is apparent most impressively in illuminating discussions of Eliot’s ‘mythical method’ and of his debt to Bradley’s idealism.”

Modern Schoolman (January 1996):
Mastery and Escape is a “collection of almost two decades of philosophically astute work sympathetic to the mind of T. S. Eliot.”

“Brooker’s book is... informed throughout by her sense of Eliot’s search for a unifying Absolute, first in substitutes for religion and then in religion itself. With Eliot, she is also alert to the frustrated longings for an ordering transcendence in the fanaticisms, myth-making and desecrations of modern politics, art, and erotics.”

English Literature in Transition 1880-1920 (January 1997):
“An assortment of extremely thoughtful, compelling discussions that celebrate Eliot as the most significant modernist figure... Brooker is one of the few critics to connect the dialectical pattern of Eliot’s imagination to the intellectual and cultural influences most evident in his work.”

One impulse that connects all of these essays is a driving need to expose and amend misunderstandings that have plagued modernism and Eliot; the resulting theme is one of the book’s real strengths.”

South Atlantic Review (September 1995):
“Brooker has throughout her career been dedicated to explaining... difficult influences, which she knows well from firsthand study of their texts. Mastery and Escape is a collection of fifteen essays, providing valuable studies of much of the background material so essential to an in-depth knowledge of Eliot’s mind and work.”

“In ‘Tradition and Female Enmity: Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar Read T. S. Eliot,’ Brooker... takes to task two of the leading figures in feminist criticism for their attack on Eliot. She is more than a worthy adversary, for her essay is armed with wit, confidence, solid knowledge of feminist criticism, and a facility with the tools of logic and argumentation. This is intellectual warfare at its best as she counterattacks with logic, addressing and demolishing their points one by one... Brooker goes for the jugular in a no-nonsense, no-holds-barred approach, demonstrating the fallacies in their arguments in a rapid-fire manner.”

This book "makes such an important contribution to Eliot studies in its clarification of... crucial material which shaped the mind of this great twentieth-century figure."

College English (April 1996):
“Brooker’s work on Eliot is deservedly well known and respected. Her latest, Mastery and Escape, is a compendium of essays. The various insights garnered here are clearly the result of many years of reading, teaching, and thinking about Eliot.”

Christianity and Literature (Winter 1996):
Mastery and Escape “offers a fresh portrait of the cultural climate of early twentieth-century Europe, . . . [Brooker’s] case for a return to an Eliot-centered view of modernism lies in the poet’s ability to comprehend the intellectual revolution that [was] transforming virtually everything from theoretical physics to music and painting.”

American Literary Scholarship (1994):
“Brooker... defines the high modernist ‘tendency to move forward by spiraling back.’ ...She has read Eliot’s prose thoroughly, and her work draws on diverse works from all periods... [She shows Eliot’s] resolute stance against dualism, particularly valuable because contemporary critics are sometimes too ready to analyze Eliot dualistically from a perspective... he hoped his writings would disprove.”