Poets were no longer able to join the intellect and the emotions to produce true masterworks.
These three ideas—the impersonal theory of poetry, the objective correlative, and the dissociation of sensibility—certainly changed the way American and British scholars studied poetry: Innovative critical schools, such as the American New Criticism of the late 1920’s and 1930’s, were the result, and university training in literature was also changed by these principles.
One last key critical idea of this period, introduced in “The Metaphysical Poets” and “Andrew Marvell,” was the “dissociation of sensibility.” A practical effect of Eliot’s emphasis on literary tradition was to give new importance to literary periods that had been neglected; one of these, in Eliot’s view, was the era of the Metaphysical poets at the beginning of the seventeenth century.
He believed that English poetry had declined in the period following the Metaphysical poets, such as John Donne and Andrew Marvell, and that the cause of this decline lay in a “dissociation of sensibility.” In other words, thought and feeling in poems (sensibility) began to be severed (the dissociation).
As his literary star continued to rise, however, his personal life became more difficult.
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By then, he had separated from Vivien, and in 1933, with the cooperation of her family, he had his wife committed to a mental institution.
Alfred Prufrock” was Eliot’s use of intensely urban imagery: Prufrock is a citizen of the modern city, an acute observer of its confusion, grime, and poignancy.
The poem’s opening lines are reminiscent of images that French readers had found in the work of Baudelaire.
Because no one narrator appears to be speaking the poem, the work seems as impersonal as a crowded London street.
The five sections of also constitute Eliot’s “objective correlative,” a chain of events that sparks a particular emotional mood.