Literary B-Sides, the Legacy of T. S. Eliot, and Kenotic Art

Christ and Pop Culture | 8/8/2019 | David Hannan
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What do Stephen King’s The Dark Tower Series, Cats: The Musical, and “hipster-ism” all share in common? T. S. Eliot, of course. Book III of The Dark Tower is the name of Eliot’s most famous poem, The Waste Land; Cats is based loosely on Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats”; and The Atlantic has explored the primacy of Prufrock’s rolled-up pant-cuffs arguing that, in fact, he may have been the archetypal hipster.

Eliot remains today a fixture in modern literature and popular culture. One cannot peruse an anthology of modern poetry without encountering his works. For many of us, it was an unforgettable awakening when we first read of the “life measured out with coffee spoons,” in “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,” and a delight, albeit a perplexed one, at encountering “fear in a handful of dust” in The Waste Land with all its angst and esoterica. For the Christian reader, there is the more complete joy at discovering that the once dark, abstruse Ezekiel allusions in “The Burial of the Dead” blossomed into an exquisite collection of Christian poetry in Four Quartets. In short, for many Christians, Eliot is a touchstone, an undeniable, intellectual fixture of his era, counted among the likes of John Donne, Blaise Pascal, Kierkegaard, Lewis, Tolkien, and others. He is a go-to figure whenever Christians are berated as anti-intellectual and prudish, or even unartistic.

Description - Jesus - East - Coker - Four

When one reads this hauntingly beautiful description of Jesus from “East Coker” (Four Quartets II), it is not difficult to understand his Christian appeal:

That questions the distempered part;

Enigma - Chart

Resolving the enigma of the fever chart.

Indeed, his late poems are widely regarded as some of the greatest Christian verse from the 20th century. Given such a rap-sheet of righteous words, it would seem that T. S. Eliot left an unequivocally Christian literary...
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