T. S. Eliot’s Ascetic Ideal


Author: Joshua Richards
In T. S. Eliot’s Ascetic Ideal, Joshua Richards charts an intellectual history of T. S. Eliot’s interaction with asceticism. This history is drawn from Eliot’s own education in the topic with the texts he read integrated into detailed textual analysis. Eliot’s early encounters with the ascetic ideal began a lifetime of interplay and reflection upon self-denial, purgation, and self-surrender. In 1909, he began a study of mysticism, likely, in George Santayana’s seminar, and thereafter showed the influence of this education. Yet, his interaction with the ascetic ideal and his background in mysticism was not a simple thing; still, his early cynicism was slowly transformed to an embrace.

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Joshua Richards, Ph.D. (2012), University of St Andrews, is Assistant Professor of English at Oklahoma Panhandle State University. While he focuses on T. S. Eliot, he has also written on George MacDonald, C. S. Lewis, and J. K. Rowling.
“In this study, Joshua Richards refuses to allow “mysticism” to stand in as a vague placeholder for complicated theology and instead offers a meticulous and revealing account of T. S. Eliot’s lifelong engagement with Christian asceticism, a key component of the Christian mystical tradition more broadly.”
-Ann Marie Jakubowski, Washington University, in Time Present: The Newsletter of the International T. S. Eliot Society, vol. 103, 2021, pp. 6-17
T. S. Eliot specialists, academic libraries, Evelyn Underhill researchers, and anyone interested in the intersection of religion and literature in Britain and American in the early 20th century.