Christianity and Culture

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Harcourt Brace, 2008 - Religion - 212 pages
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Christianity and Culture- The Idea of a Christian Society AND Notes towards the Definition of Culture By T. S. Eliot. Originally published in 1940. Contents include: The Idea of a Christian Society I Preface 3 Notes 52 Postscript 69 Appendix 71 Notes towards the Definition of Culture 79 Preface 83 Introduction 85 i. The Three Senses of Culture 93 n. The Class and the Elite 107 in. Unity and Diversity: The Region 123 iv. Unity and Diversity: Sect and Cult 141 v, A Note on Culture and Politics 158 vi. Notes on Education and Culture: and Conclusion 171 APPENDIX: The Unity of European Culture. Christianity and Culture has appeared too recently for me to have made use of it. And I am deeply indebted to the works of Jacques Maritain, es pecially his Humanisme integral. 1 trust that the reader will understand from the beginning that this book does not make any plea for a religious revival in a sense with which we are already familiar. That is a task for which I am incompetent, and the term seems to me to imply a possible separation of religious feeling from religious thinking which I do not accept or which I do not find ac ceptable for our present difficulties. An anonymous writer has recently observed in The New English Weekly ( July 13, 1939) that men have lived by spiritual institutions ( of some kind) in every society, and also by political institutions and, indubitably, by eco nomic activities. Admittedly, they have, at different periods, tended to put their trust mainly in one of the three as the real cement of society, but at no time have they wholly excluded the others, because it is impossible to do so. This is an important, and in its context valuable, distinc tion; but it should be clear that what I am concerned with here is not spiritual institutions in their separated aspect, but the organisation of values, and a direction of religious thought which must inevitably proceed to a criticism of political and economic systems. CHAPTER I: THE fact that a problem will certainly take a long time to solve, and that it will demand the attention of many minds for several generations, is no justification for postponing the study. And, in times of emergency, it may prove in the long run that the problems we have postponed or ignored, rather than those we have failed to attack success fully, will return to plague us. Our difficulties of the moment must always be dealt with somehow: but our permanent dif ficulties are difficulties of every moment. The subject with which I am concerned in the following pages is one to which I am convinced we ought to turn our attention now, if we hope ever to be relieved of the immediate perplexities that fill our minds. It is urgent because it is fundamental; and its urgency is the reason for a person like myself attempting to address, on a subject beyond his usual scope, that public which is likely to read what he writes on other subjects. This is a subject which I could, no doubt, handle much better were I a profound scholar in any of several fields. But I am not writ ing for scholars, but for people like myself; some defects may be compensated by some advantages; and what one must be judged by, scholar or no, is not particularised knowledge but one's total harvest of thinking, feeling, living and observ ing human beings. While the practice of poetry need not in itself confer wis dom or accumulate knowledge, it ought at least to train the mind in one habit of universal value: that of analysing the meanings of words: of those that one employs oneself, as well as the words of others.

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About the author (2008)

T. S. Eliot is considered by many to be a literary genius and one of the most influential men of letters during the half-century after World War I. He was born on September 26, 1888, in St. Louis, Missouri. Eliot attended Harvard University, with time abroad pursuing graduate studies at the Sorbonne, Marburg, and Oxford. The outbreak of World War I prevented his return to the United States, and, persuaded by Ezra Pound to remain in England, he decided to settle there permanently. He published his influential early criticism, much of it written as occasional pieces for literary periodicals. He developed such doctrines as the "dissociation of sensibility" and the "objective correlative" and elaborated his views on wit and on the relation of tradition to the individual talent. Eliot by this time had left his early, derivative verse far behind and had begun to publish avant-garde poetry (including "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" (1915), which exploited fresh rhythms, abrupt juxtapositions, contemporary subject matter, and witty allusion. This period of creativity also resulted in another collection of verse (including "Gerontian") and culminated in The Waste Land, a masterpiece published in 1922 and produced partly during a period of psychological breakdown while married to his wife, Vivienne Haigh-Wood Eliot. In 1922, Eliot became a director of the Faber & Faber publishing house, and in 1927 he became a British citizen and joined the Church of England. Thereafter, his career underwent a change. With the publication of Ash Wednesday in 1930, his poetry became more overtly Christian. As editor of the influential literary magazine The Criterion, he turned his hand to social as well as literary criticism, with an increasingly conservative orientation. His religious poetry culminated in Four Quartets, published individually from 1936 onward and collectively in 1943. This work is often considered to be his greatest poetic achievement. Eliot also wrote poetry in a much lighter vein, such as Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats (1939), a collection that was used during the early 1980s as the basis for the musical, Cats. In addition to his contributions in poetry and criticism, Eliot is the pivotal verse dramatist of this century. He followed the lead of William Butler Yeats in attempting to revive metrical language in the theater. But, unlike Yeats, Eliot wanted a dramatic verse that would be self-effacing, capable of expressing the most prosaic passages in a play, and an insistent, undetected presence capable of elevating itself at a moment's notice. His progression from the pageant The Rock (1934) and Murder in the Cathedral (1935), written for the Canterbury Festival, through The Family Reunion (1939) and The Cocktail Party (1949), a West End hit, was thus a matter of neutralizing obvious poetic effects and bringing prose passages into the flow of verse. Recent critics have seen Eliot as a divided figure, covertly attracted to the very elements (romanticism, personality, heresy) he overtly condemned. His early attacks on romantic poets, for example, often reveal him as a romantic against the grain. The same divisions carry over into his verse, where violence struggles against restraint, emotion against order, and imagination against ironic detachment. This Eliot is more human and more attractive to contemporary taste. During his lifetime, Eliot received many honors and awards, including the Nobel Prize for literature in 1948.

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