Vol 31 No 1 (2015)
Articles

An Ecomythic Reading of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land

Geoffrey Berry
The Phoenix Institute of Australia
Bio
Published July 27, 2015
Keywords
  • Ecocriticism,
  • T S Eliot,
  • The Waste Land,
  • ecopsychology,
  • myth

Abstract

T S Eliot’s famous poem The Waste Land represents not only the spiritual malaise he sensed in modern society, but the alienation between the human psyche and the rest of the natural world as well. Analysis of some of the most potent imagery in the poem reveals a high modernist sense of extreme anxiety that presages much ecocritical discourse since. With reference to mythic icons Tiresias the blind seer and the mystery of the Holy Grail, this article pinpoints the way that Eliot maintains a homology between psyche and environment – in this case, the urban habitat of modern society – while showing how living in the city breaks down the individual’s links to the sacred element of the natural world. In spite of this sense of desolation, Eliot’s ritualistic use of repetition provides some clues to a nascent ecopsychology within the text.