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  • Print publication year: 2004
  • Online publication date: March 2010

Sweeney Agonistes (1932)

Summary

D. G. Bridson.

"Views and Reviews:

Sweeney Agonistes."

New English Weekly 2

(12 January 1933), 304.

It is difficult to criticize Mr. Eliot. It is difficult, in fact, to fix him “pinned and wriggling on the wall.” His elusiveness […] is invaluable to him. No sooner has a critic pronounced his later work a manifestation of his return to the fold, than a true disciple ups and denies the assertion flatly. The form is more regular, it seems, yet the implication is more subtle than ever. So let it be with Sweeney. But when Mr. Eliot labels his work “fragments of an Aristophanic melodrama,” he gives us an axis of reference.

In the first place, then, we do not readily think of Mr. Eliot as the modern Aristophanes. Aristophanic his moods may be, but Aristophanic they have certainly never appeared. The belly-shaking laughter of many passages in Ulysses are as Aristophanic as we choose to call them. But an Aristophanic melodrama by Mr. Eliot …! Sooner a parody of the Sermon on the Mount by St. Thomas Aquinas! And when a man of high seriousness (such we esteem Mr. Eliot) turns himself (as Mr. Eliot has done) to satiric melodrama or farce on the broad scale, we can hazard a guess at the result. […]

A good deal might be said about the form of the fragments now published. […] In the first place, their nature suggests that the whole is not conspicuous for what Frere called “the utter impossibility of the story.”

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T. S. Eliot
  • Online ISBN: 9780511485466
  • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511485466
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