Thursday, August 22, 2013

T.S. Eliot and the Vanishing Brahmin

Hot news -- the new issue of the Battersea Review is out, and available online!

It's got poetry by John Tranter, Alfred Corn, Peter Robinson, Katia Kapovich, and many others, as well as new translations of Georg Trakl, Sophocles, Pushkin, and Mandelshtam.

You'll also find essays on Harvard & Yale poetry culture, Wallace Stevens, Federico Garcia Lorca, Romanticism, and more -- including my essay "T.S. Eliot and the Vanishing Brahmin."  Check it out!

Many thanks to U.S. Dhuga and Ben Mazer for putting it all together, and for running the most intelligent and eclectic literary journal of the decade.


Here's the first paragraph of my essay:

"Noblesse oblige," wrote E.J. Dionne in the Washington Post, "sounds bad until you don't have it any more." Dionne's point was that the American elite no longer seems much interested in legitimating its position by undertaking the kind of social and cultural leadership to which earlier elites had devoted themselves. Dionne's sentiment is apt for our times, but it would have been equally germane to the America in which T.S. Eliot came of age, an America in which an old elite headquartered in Boston found itself shunted aside by a rougher sort altogether: the Carnegies and Fricks and Morgans and Rockefellers, and the equally ruthless men whose stories Lincoln Steffens told in The Shame of the Cities, men who made an art of turning public resources into private profit in the burgeoning metropolises of the nation. Eliot's class, the old Boston Brahmins, with their patrician scruples about fair dealing and community leadership and responsibility, didn't stand a chance, and their decline mattered immensely to Eliot. Indeed, the decay of Eliot's class of origin would prove crucial to his Anglophilia, his poetics, and even to his love of etymology.