American poet, literary and cultural critic, dramatist.
Date of Humanities Series Lecture: 4 December, 1961.
One of the most important writers of the twentieth century, T. S. Eliot had a wide-ranging and profound influence on modern literature. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948. At the Nobel banquet in December, 1948 Eliot provided a stirring encomium on the importance of poetry in the world:
In the work of every poet there will certainly be much that can only appeal to those who inhabit the same region, or speak the same language, as the poet. But nevertheless there is a meaning to the phrase ‘the poetry of Europe,’ and even to the word ‘poetry’ the world over.
I think that in poetry people of different countries and different languages--though it be apparently only through a small minority in any one country--acquire an understanding of each other which, however partial, is still essential. And I take the award of the Nobel Prize in Literature, when it is given to a poet, to be primarily an assertion of the supra-national value of poetry. To make that affirmation, it is necessary from time to time to designate a poet: and I stand before you, not on my own merits, but as a symbol, for a time, of the significance of poetry.
Eliot's poetry is available online from The Faber Poetry Library.
Read more about Eliot from Literature Online.