S-Space College of Humanities (인문대학) Institute of Humanities (인문학연구원) Journal of humanities (인문논총) Journal of Humanities vol.25 (1991) (인문논총)
엘리어트와 포스트모더니즘-황무지 The Waste Land>의 포스트모던성을 중심으로-
Eliot and Postmodernism: Postmododernity in The Waste Land
- Issue Date
- 서울대학교 인문대학 인문과학연구소
- 인문논총, Vol.25, pp. 21-48
- The Waste Land is generally considered to be a quintessentially modernistic poem written by a representative modernistic poet, T.S. Eliot. Or is it? Even though the poem was written during the so-called modernistic period by one of the most typical modernistic poets, it does not necessarily follow that it is or should be a modernistic poem. This poem defies this kind of easy categorization and stands on its own peculiar characteristics. This is the main reason why critics have not so far reached a consensus on how to deal with it. In this respect, we can try to read it from a perspective different from the one con ventionally practised so far. Concepts like postmodernism and postmodernity, then, can serve us very well for this purpose. Especially the period-neutral concept like postmodernity will be a very useful tool in reading this poem. What makes this poem different from other modernistic poems is that it does not have a narrative, or a story, to tell. This means that it does not seem to have a unified organizing principle, generally understood as telos, because it is wholly composed of fragments. In this sense, this poem demands a new reading strategy. Of all things, the feature of seeming purposelessness of this poem makes it very posmodernistic, because postmodernity (and postmodernism, too) literally thrive on the meaninglessness and fragmentariness of the world in general and of the work of art itself in particular. This aspect of meaninglessness, then, leads us to note the decentered nature of the poem. The Waste Land, a mere "heap of broken images," does not have a center in its structure in the conventional sense of the term. We cannot, therefore, say for sure who the original author/authors is/are: Eliot/Pound/the writers of the quoted fragments/ and/or the reader of the text as the poem. The original writer/writers can and/or cannot be either one of these and, at the same time, all/none of these. In this confused state of affairs, not a single definite meaning can be fixed on this text as to its story-line, because the text itself is connected with other texts ad infinitum. In this regard, even though The Waste Land is written in the so-called modernistic period by a well-known modernistic poet, it definitely demands to be read as a postmodernistic text.