Classics of American Literature: T. S. Eliot

Analysis of work by T. S. Eliot including the lovesong of j. alfred prufrock, The Waste Land, The Hollow Men and more.
  • Lectures 45
  • Video 11 Hours
  • Skill level all level
  • Languages English
  • Includes Lifetime access
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Course Description

A Faculty Project Course - Best Professors Teaching the World

The central purpose of this course is to facilitate a better understanding of poems by T. S. Eliot.  We will focus mainly on classic works such as The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock, The Waste Land, and The Hollow Men, but we may also take up some less prominent poems as well.  Toward this end we shall also consider some aspects of Eliot's biography, his literary criticism, and the cultural backdrop of his times.  Our final objective will be to clarify not only Eliot's poems but the revolution in twentieth century poetry largely attributed to Eliot and his cohort Ezra Pound.

See Prof. Strandberg on NBC17

What am I going to get from this course?

  • Over 45 lectures and 11 hours of content!



Welcome to the course.

In this lecture, I give a brief introduction of myself and provide an overview of what we will be covering in this course.

I look forward to hearing your comments and questions throughout the different topics I present to you. I also hope it sparks a good discussion in the course.

Section 1: T.S. Eliot Biography

Key Points:

  • Family history
  • Education
  • Formative influences
  • Photographs
Images - Biography of T.S. Eliot
50 slides
T.S. Eliot Timeline
2 pages
Some Best Books
7 slides
Section 2: Naturalism

Key Points:

  • The Crisis of Belief
  • Faith vs Science
  • Melville, Twain, Dreiser
The Crisis of Belief: Naturalism
1 page
Section 3: Modernism

Key Points:

  • The Pound-Eliot Revolution
  • Greater Realism
  • Nine specific precepts
Section 4: The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock
Poem - The Love Song Of J. Alfred Prufrock
5 pages

In this lecture, we look at the first great poem of T.S. Eliot.

Key Points:

  • A new style of poetry
  • Realism (naturalism) vs Romance
  • Allusions—Dante, Shakespeare, Marvell
  • Isolation
Section 5: Sweeney Among the Nightingales
Poem - Sweeney Among The Nightingales
2 pages

Key Points:

  • Counterpoint  to Prufrock
  • Mock epic
  • Eliot and the Nightingale
Section 6: Portrait of a Lady
Poem - Portrait of a Lady
4 pages

Key Points:

  • Protocols of gentility
  • Being friends (Romance)
  • The social mask (Realism)
  • The wench is dead
Section 7: Preludes (a poem)
Poem - Preludes
2 pages

Key Points:

  • A new tack
  • Blight in the city
  • A visionary moment
  • Self-repression
Section 8: Gerontion
Poem - Gerontion
2 pages

Key Points:

  • The quest for meaning
  • Christ the tiger
  • What is adulterated
  • Around the Horn
Section 9: The Waste Land - Introduction

Key Points:

  • From Ritual to Romance
  • The Tarot cards
  • Sacred writ
Tarot Cards
2 pages
Poem - The Waste Land
18 pages
7 pages
These are Eliot's own notes to The Waste Land. Read through it and use it as reference as we go along through each part of The Waste Land.
Section 10: The Waste Land - 1

Key Points:

  • Ethics, metaphysics
  • A myth of rebirth
  • The cruellest month

Key Points:

  • Hearing voices
  • Memory and desire
  • Epiphanies
  • What root out of dry ground?
The Burial of the Dead (Part 3)
Section 11: The Waste Land - 2

Key Points:

  • Philomela: the plight of woman

  • Two portraits of marriage

  • Seeing Nothing


Key Points:

  • Common speech

  • Women beware women

  • Ophelia

Section 12: The Waste Land - 3
2 pages
This is from Henry Clark Warren, "Buddhism in Translation." Read through it before proceeding to the next lecture as we will discuss it there.

Key Points:

  • Background information of the title
  • Discovery of the narrator
  • The Buddha's sermon

The Fire Sermon (Part 2)
Section 13: The Waste Land - 4

Section 14: The Waste Land - 5

What the Thunder Said (Part 2)
Section 15: The Hollow Men
Poem - The Hollow Men
3 pages
The Hollow Men
Section 16: Eliot's Conversion, Journey of the Magi
Poem - Journey Of The Magi
1 page
Journey of the Magi
Section 17: Ash Wednesday
Poem - Ash Wednesday
7 pages
Ash Wednesday (Part 1)
Ash Wednesday (Part 2)
Ash Wednesday (Part 3)
Section 18: Course Wrap-up: Literary and Cultural Criticism
6 pages
Take some time to read through Eliot's criticism. Make sure you download this document as we will refer to it in the next two lectures. 

It will be best to have the document open on your desktop before you proceed to the next lecture. 
Please download and open the document on T.S. Eliot's criticism before you begin this lecture.
Literary and Cultural Criticism (Part 2) | Course Conclusion
Section 19: Concluding Note
Thank You

Instructor Biography

Victor Strandberg , Professor of English - Duke University

Born in New Hampshire (1935), raised in Central Massachusetts; A.B. Clark University, 1957; PhD in English and American Literature, Brown University, 1962; Taught at University of Vermont, 1962-1966; at Duke University, 1966-present.

Published books on Robert Penn Warren, William James, William Faulkner, and Cynthia Ozick; essays on many 19th and 20th century American writers.  Most of these writings are freely available (or soon will be) at Duke University website, tap "dukespace," then "faculty scholarship."  Fulbright Senior Lecturer in American Literature in Sweden (Uppsala, 1973), Belgium (Louvain, 1980), Germany (Mannheim, 1987), and the Czech Republic (Olomouc, 2001).  Also taught in Japan (Kobe College, 1994) and Morocco (Marrakech, 1987).  Married 1961 to Penelope Hamilton; two daughters, Anne and Susan.


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    • Scott Cockrell

    This Course Will Change Your Life

    Before this course I knew that T.S. Eliot was considered a great writer, but I did not understand his work, or really why he was so influential. Now I get it. Prof. Strandberg is a great instructor and walks the student through some of Eliot's notable works, explaining the themes and meaning so even someone like me could understand.

    • Gregory Firth

    Best tour guide you can get for Eliot!

    Victor Strandberg is (or was) a professor of English at Duke U, and with his help and guidance we dig into the Wasteland and other important poems of TS Eliot. Frankly, I was fascinated by Eliot in my Victor Strandberg, professor of English at Duke U, is our guide to the Wasteland and other poems from Eliot. Frankly, I was fascinated by Eliot in my youth but often came away shaking my head at how much work was required to read his works. Worse, I know now that I missed quite a bit of the larger themes of Eliot's efforts. Sometimes its better to have a qualified tour guide to enjoy the sights, rather than attempting to cut through the thorny allusions Eliot enjoyed so much (Ezra Pound was 10x worse). This course has been a pleasure - thank you very much professor. My favorite Eliot poem: Mr. Eliot’s Sunday Morning Service

    • Gregory Lopez

    A Solid Journey

    Thanks to Professor Strandberg for making this introduction to TS Eliot freely available, and making one of the more difficult poets in the English language more accessible.

    • WMSC (White Male Senior Citizen) Ronald Elliot Keeperman

    A complex subject made inviting

    Professor Victor Strandberg uses every tool in his magical toolbox to conjure up Clarity, Meaning, and Appreciation for a body of work that has lasting importance for all those who ask themselves the questions that challenge their very being. Search as one might, one cannot find a better, more intelligent, lucid discussion of Eliot's life and works than these video lectures.

    • Rachel Christian

    Fantastic course.

    This is a wonderful course for anyone wishing to have a better understanding and appreciation of T. S. Eliot's poems. The lectures cover not only the literary works and social movements that influenced Eliot, but also how events in Eliot's life and Eliot's own social standing impacted his work and show up throughout his earlier poetry. Highly recommended.

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