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T. S. Eliot's Dialectical Imagination (2018)

The characters in Eliot's early poetry are tormented by the gap between intellect and feeling, thought and action, mind and body,. The need to address this impasse is part of what drew Eliot to philosophy, and the failure of philosophy to assuage his disquiet is the reason he gave for abandoning it. In T. S. Eliot's Dialectical Imagination, Jewel Spears Brooker argues that two of the principles that he absorbed as a PhD student were to become permanent features of his thought, grounding his lifelong quest for wholeness and underpinning most of his subsequent poetry. The first is that contradictions are best understood dialectically, by moving to perspectives that both include and transcend them. The second is that all truths exist in relation to other truths. Together or in tandem, these two principles-dialectic and relativism-constitute the basis of a continual re-shaping of Eliot's imagination. 


Brooker analyzes "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," The Waste Land, and Four Quartets in conjunction with stages in Eliot's intellectual and spiritual life: disjunction, ambivalence, and transcendence. Her methodology is both inductive--moving from texts to theories--and comparative--juxtaposing the evolution of his mind and of his style, integrating cultural and biographical contexts. The first book to read Eliot's poems alongside all of his prose and letters, T. S. Eliot's Dialectical Imagination will revise received readings of his poetry and of literary modernism.

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Johns Hopkins UP


Tony Sharpe, Review of English Studies (2019)

T. S. Eliot's Dialectical Imagination is a lucid, intricate, but informative book, and the more you already know about Eliot, the more you will learn from it.


Michelle A. Taylor, Literary Matters (2019)

Like the skeptical Eliot, Brooker distinguishes between "facts" and "interpretations." She elaborates [his] distinction in a stunning chapter [and argues that it] shapes the paratactic structure of The Waste Land. ... Her readings are generally faultless, and the limits she imposes on her own interpretations render them generative for her critical audience. ... Brooker excels at tracking arguments and provides miraculously clear explanations of long, complicated, and opaque philosophical texts. T. S. Eliot's Dialectical Imagination is a book that an interested undergraduate would find perfectly intelligible.

Cécile Varry, The Modernist Review (2019)

What is striking in Eliot's Dialectical Imagination is the way Brooker integrates complex philosophical and theological analyses into a deeply sympathetic, emotionally intelligent study. She excels in guiding us along Eliot's intellectual and creative trajectory, using dialectics to draw a portrait of the conflicted mind of a poet who "abandons nothing en route."


Giuliana Ferreccio, Make it New (2019)
Brooker ... gives us a detailed and  comprehensive picture of the complex ... interconnections running through the texture of Eliot's philosophical writings, his poetry and criticism, and his religious thinking. … Supporting the view that Eliot is always keeping extreme poles together in a profound and painful recognition that neither is enough but neither is superfluous, and that there is no absolute ground on which to stand, Brooker . . . respects the autonomy of the different "Eliots" while pursuing "the figure in the carpet of the whole of his creative life".

 Jaron Murphy, Journal of the T. S. Eliot Society (UK) (2019)
By pinning Eliot's absorption of these two principles [dialectic and relativism] to his early immersion in philosophy, and proceeding to methodically and meticulously trace their recurrence across his … criticism and poetry, … Brooker leads us in a variety of marvelously illuminating directions within the labyrinth. Her insightful treatment of [philosophers], theologians, and literary figures, … and her brilliant concluding analysis of Four Quartets, ensures this book will be widely received as an indispensable companion.
Fabio L. Vericat, Time Present (2019)
T. S. Eliot's Dialectical Imagination is a work of masterful critical synthesis whose immense scholarship … is easy to follow thanks to the effortlessness of its writing. … Brooker's interest in Eliot's Christian belief does not require that the reader should believe too, but … does give a real sense of what belief might feel like. … Brooker must be praised for …  getting us as close as one can possibly be to the experience of Eliot's belief.

Victor Strandberg, Literary Matters (2019)

T. S. Eliot's Dialectical Imagination is especially astute in finding new ways of relating Eliot's intellectual biography to his poetry. ... Its originality, intellectual heft, and graceful style make it appealing to Eliot's general readership and essential for Eliot scholars. 


Thomas Austenfeld, Anglia (2019)
Brooker's account of Eliot's dialectics and relativism is … grounded in solid textual analysis. The copious quotations from his poetry, letters, and prose … make the argument clear, persuasive and approachable. … The reader, though challenged with matters of extraordinary complexity, feels guided by a firm hand, as if were the doubting Dante holding fast to Virgil.