|"What is to be insisted upon is that the poet must develop or procure the consciousness of the past and that he should continue to develop this consciousness throughout his career.|
|What happens is a continual surrender of himself as he is at the moment to something which is more valuable. The progress of an artist is a continual self-sacrifice, a continual extinction of personality."|
"Tradition...cannot be inherited[.] It involves, in the first place, the historical sense...[;] and the historical sense involves a perception, not only of the pastness of the past, but of its presence; the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of Europe from Homer and within it the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order. This historical sense, which is a sense of the timeless as well as of the temporal and of the timeless and of the temporal together, is what makes a writer traditional. And it is at the same time what makes a writer most acutely conscious of his place in time, of his contemporaneity."
"No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead...[W]hat happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them. The existing order is complete before the new work arrives; for order to persist after the supervention of novelty, the whole existing order must be, if ever so slightly, altered; and so the relations, proportions, values of each work of art toward the whole are readjusted; and this is conformity between the old and the new. Whoever has approved this idea of order, of the form of European, of English literature, will not find it preposterous that the past should be altered by the present as much as the present is directed by the past. And the poet who is aware of this will be aware of great difficulties and responsibilities."
"To proceed to a more intelligible exposition of the relation of the poet to the past: he can neither take the past as a lump, an indiscriminate bolus, nor can he form himself wholly on one or two private admirations, nor can he form himself wholly upon one preferred period... [He] must be aware that the mind of Europe—the mind of his own country—a mind which he learns in time to be much more important than his own private mind—is a mind which changes[.]"
"The business of the poet is not to find new emotions, but to use the ordinary ones and, in working them up into poetry, to express feelings which are not in actual emotions at all. And emotions which he has never experienced will serve his turn as well as those familiar to him... Poetry is not a turning loose of emotion, but an escape from emotion; it is not the expression of personality, but an escape from personality. But, of course, only those who have personality and emotions know what it means to want to escape from these things."
Certainly that's an awful lot of text, but it provides the final reference to "Tradition and the Individual Talent." Eliot's essay is rather brief, if not compressed, but I encourage a reading of it in its entirety to gain a deeper appreciation for just how complex Eliot's idea of art and tradition really is. Regardless, the text demonstrates the movement from kairos to chronos, from past to present, from the mind of the artist to the 'mind of Europe,' from the instantiation of the past to the instantiations of past in present and present in past, and from emotions to feelings. Eliot has his own conception of plasticity, though he does not use the term, and it is distributive. Unlike Catherine Malabou, who tends to locate plasticity within the subject, or Caputo, who tends to locate it in Spirit (these locations are argumentative strategies), Eliot locates plasticity in subject and tradition, and in the play of both. This strategy seems to me the more effective if one want to give the event every opportunity 'to come.'
The processes of surrendering and escaping result in a poetry that enters and transforms the tradition: this is the event of art. The event harbored in reading poetry is criticism, or the response to the call of the text. Interestingly, for Malabou, the event is released in Hegel by plasticity; for Caputo, there is no event in Hegel because plasticity is not plastic enough. For both of these thinkers, it would seem, the event harbored in sacred texts is released by Sein und Zeit. And Eliot might get behind that: the poet's mind is a catalytic Dasein, a 'being there' for elements to interact and combine to make something new and different, yet recognizable after the fact, something that is not quite seen coming, on a horizon that is there but not quite visualized.
Perhaps I take too many liberties with these three fascinating thinkers.