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SURREALISM AND TS ELIOT Surrealism is a dangerous word to use about the poet playwright and critic TS Eliot and certainly with his first major work The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock Eliot wrote the poem after all years before Andre Breton and his compatriots began defining and practicing surrealism proper Andre Breton published his first Manifesto of Surrealism in 1924 seven years after Eliots publication of The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock It was this manifesto which defined the movement in philosophical and psychological terms Moreover Eliot would later show indifference incomprehension and at times hostility toward surrealism and its precursor Dada Eliots favourites among his French contemporaries werent surrealists but were rather the figures of St John Perse and Paul Verlaine among others This does not mean Eliot had nothing in common with surrealist poetry but the facts that both Eliot and the Surrealists owed much to Charles Baudelaires can perhaps best explain any similarity strangely evocative explorations of the symbolic suggestions of objects and images Its unusual sometimes startling juxtapositions often characterize surrealism by which it tries to transcend logic and habitual thinking to reveal deeper levels of meaning and of unconscious associations Although scholars might not classify Eliot as a Surrealist the surreal landscape defined as an attempt to express the workings of the subconscious mind by images without order as in a dream is exemplified in The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock Prufrock presents a symbolic landscape where the meaning emerges from the mutual interaction of the images and that meaning is enlarged by echoes often heroic of other writers The juxtapositions mentioned earlier are evident even at the poems opening which begins on a rather sombre note with a nightmarish passage from Dantes Inferno
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