Date Thesis Awarded

5-2020

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Degree Name

Bachelors of Arts (BA)

Department

English

Advisor

Henry Hart

Committee Members

Christopher MacGowan

Suzanne Raitt

Leisa Meyer

Abstract

This thesis argues that T.S. Eliot's The Waste Land is Eliot's version of a modern fertility ritual with women as the principal drivers of the narrative. Women show both the depth of desolation that spiritual bankruptcy brings, but ironically contain within them the hope and possibility for redemption. Through figures such as the Sybil, Madame Sosostris, Lil, Philomela, and Ganga, Eliot shows the full range of emotion and possibilities to be found in The Waste Land. Ultimately, women are the catalysts in the poem - they make up the steps of the fertility rituals set out by Jessie Weston in the book that so influenced Eliot: From Ritual to Romance. Ultimately, with the help of the women both in his life (Vivienne Eliot and Emily Hale) as well as those of ancient history and myth, Eliot completes his spiritual quest to find everlasting peace.

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