Dissertation, University of Auckland (2012)

Dominic Griffiths
University of Witwatersrand
This thesis explores, thematically and chronologically, the substantial concordance between the work of Martin Heidegger and T.S. Eliot. The introduction traces Eliot's ideas of the 'objective correlative' and 'situatedness' to a familiarity with German Idealism. Heidegger shared this familiarity, suggesting a reason for the similarity of their thought. Chapter one explores the 'authenticity' developed in Being and Time, as well as associated themes like temporality, the 'they' (Das Man), inauthenticity, idle talk and angst, and applies them to interpreting Eliot's poem, 'The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock'. Both texts depict a bleak Modernist view of the early twentieth-century Western human condition, characterized as a dispiriting nihilism and homelessness. Chapter two traces the chronological development of Ereignis in Heidegger's thinking, showing the term's two discernible but related meanings: first our nature as the 'site of the open' where Being can manifest, and second individual 'Events' of 'appropriation and revelation'. The world is always happening as 'event', but only through our appropriation by the Ereignis event can we become aware of this. Heidegger finds poetry, the essential example of language as the 'house of Being', to be the purest manifestation of Ereignis, taking as his examples Hölderlin and Rilke. A detailed analysis of Eliot's late work Four Quartets reveals how Ereignis, both as an ineluctable and an epiphanic condition of human existence, is central to his poetry, confirming, in Heidegger's words, 'what poets are for in a destitute time', namely to re-found and restore the wonder of the world and existence itself. This restoration results from what Eliot calls 'raid[s] on the inarticulate', the poet's continual striving to enact that openness to Being through which human language and the human world continually come to be. The final chapter shows how both Eliot and Heidegger value a genuine relationship with place as enabling human flourishing. Both distrust technological materialism, which destroys our sense of the world as dwelling place, and both are essentially committed to a genuinely authentic life, not the angstful authenticity of Being and Time, but a richer belonging which affirms our relationship with the earth, each other and our gods.
Keywords Martin Heidegger  T.S. Eliot  Authenticity  Dwelling  Ereignis  Four Quartets
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