The Social Function Of Poetry English Literature Essay

Published:

This essay has been submitted by a student. This is not an example of the work written by our professional essay writers.

Eliot in his critical essay "The Social Function of Poetry" aims to highlight the function of poetry in a society. He says that the term 'function' refers to 'what a thing ought to do rather than what it does or has done'. He, before talking about what poetry should do, traces its role from ancient societies till date. Poetry has always had a 'deliberate, conscious social purpose' (p.16). In primitive ages it had been used in religious rituals for magical purposes in form of runes and chants. Greeks also developed their drama out of religious rites. Likewise, in modern times the didactic poetry emerged that involved satire and again had the purpose of social purification through moral instruction. The poetry of nineteenth century, for instance a great deal of Shelly's work, was inspired by social and political reforms.

After dealing with the social role of poetry in general, Eliot moves on to its particular function that states what it ought to do in society. The foremost social function of poetry is that it 'has to give pleasure': ( i ) pleasure of entertainment and (ii) pleasure of value. Entertaining pleasure suggests mirth and relaxation, while the pleasure of value indicates information and learning. As some people believe that a particular social, moral, religious or political purpose in poetry restricts reader's imagination, Eliot holds that poetry always adds more to the reader's knowledge of the subject and sharpens his/her thinking power for that particular area. "There is always the communication of some new experience, or some fresh understanding of the familiar, or the expression of something we have experienced but have no words for, which enlarges our consciousness or refines our sensibility" (p. 18).

"The impulse towards the literary use of the languages of the peoples began with poetry" (p. 19). Eliot states that poetry must be written in our own language because 'it has primarily to do with feeling and emotion; and that feeling and emotion are particular, whereas thought is general.' In other words, an alien language can express one's thought but cannot project the intensity of his original feelings and emotions. 'To feel in a new language' says Eliot is far different from 'expressing' the feeling in that language. Thus, at a social level, poetry written in its people's own language expresses their deepest feelings exposing their personalities and collective consciousness and presenting a unified vision of a healthy society.

Moving from poetry to poet, Eliot states that a poet's social function is to utilize his own language in expressing his people's feelings and emotions because 'his direct duty is to his language, first to preserve and second to extend and improve' and indirect duty then is to his people. A poet is a man of extraordinary intellect and observation having a command over human nature that allows him to versify his people's emotions in poetry. This expression of feelings enriches the language and keeps it alive forever.

It is not only the duty of a poet to preserve language but of every responsible citizen of a particular society. We cannot stop writing poetry because 'our sensibility is constantly changing, as the world about us changes'. This continuous change in society requires a development in language that is achieved through literature in its purest form. "But most people do not realize" says Eliot "that unless they go on producing great authors, and especially great poets, their language will deteriorate; their culture will deteriorate and perhaps become absorbed in a stronger one" (p.21). It is thus the responsibility of a poet and every citizen to write poetry in their own language in order to enrich it by making it more social and interactive.

Another important social function of poetry, according to Eliot, is that it ought to have a universal appeal. In other words, poetry should not be confined to a particular time or age. "It matters little whether a poet had a large audience in his own time. What matters is that there should always be at least a small audience for him in every generation" (p 21). Universality in poetry produces a definite influence on the future poets that makes them stay connected with the past and hence keep it alive forever, as Eliot says "It is, moreover, through the living authors that the dead remain alive" (p.21-22).

Conclusively, T.S. Eliot believes that poetry in its function to preserve language and influence people at a universal level is a social phenomenon. Its contribution to the improvement of language affects the people's communication in a society and polishes their artistic sensibilities. In a living and healthy society where there is 'a continuous reciprocal influence and interaction' of each upon the other, poetry influences them also who do not read it. And this is what Eliot means by the social function of poetry in its largest sense, "that it does, in proportion to its excellence and vigour, affect the speech and the sensibility of the whole nation" (p.22)

"THE SOCIAL FUNCTION OF POETRY"

BY

T.S. ELIOT

CRITICAL ANALYSIS OF THE ESSAY "THE SOCIAL FUNCTION OF POETRY"

SUBMITTED BY:

Mahrukh Baig

B.A. Sem VIII

English Literature

PRESENTED TO:

Miss. Amna Shaukat

Deptt. of English

DATED: Apr 16' 2008

Writing Services

Essay Writing
Service

Find out how the very best essay writing service can help you accomplish more and achieve higher marks today.

Assignment Writing Service

From complicated assignments to tricky tasks, our experts can tackle virtually any question thrown at them.

Dissertation Writing Service

A dissertation (also known as a thesis or research project) is probably the most important piece of work for any student! From full dissertations to individual chapters, we’re on hand to support you.

Coursework Writing Service

Our expert qualified writers can help you get your coursework right first time, every time.

Dissertation Proposal Service

The first step to completing a dissertation is to create a proposal that talks about what you wish to do. Our experts can design suitable methodologies - perfect to help you get started with a dissertation.

Report Writing
Service

Reports for any audience. Perfectly structured, professionally written, and tailored to suit your exact requirements.

Essay Skeleton Answer Service

If you’re just looking for some help to get started on an essay, our outline service provides you with a perfect essay plan.

Marking & Proofreading Service

Not sure if your work is hitting the mark? Struggling to get feedback from your lecturer? Our premium marking service was created just for you - get the feedback you deserve now.

Exam Revision
Service

Exams can be one of the most stressful experiences you’ll ever have! Revision is key, and we’re here to help. With custom created revision notes and exam answers, you’ll never feel underprepared again.