What the Thunder really said: T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ as a proto-Necrocene

Abstract

T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ is viewed by many as the definitive modernist work. The chaotic verses tell stories of a fractured modernist world. What is it that fractured this world, however? The answer: capitalism and accumulation. Herein I discuss Eliot’s poem as pre-empting Justin McBrien’s notion of a Necrocene, an epoch defined by capitalist accumulation hurling humanity towards the apocalypse. Though the Necrocene itself is a widely acknowledged and established concept, its use in exploring literature, within and without of the canon, is reasonably rare. Herein I seek to ask – and answer – whether Eliot’s poem builds a proto-Necrocene within its lines, essentially functioning as a warning of what was to follow, by analysing the literal and metaphorical presence of capitalism in the poem’s lines, the effect of this on the various characters of the poem and also by drawing parallels between ‘The Waste Land’ and the Christian Book of Revelation through both language and content.

Keywords

T. S. Eliot, The Waste Land, Necrocene, Ecocriticism, Capitalism, Capitolocene, Anthropocene, Apocalyptic

How to Cite

Higson-Blythe, S. J., (2023) “What the Thunder really said: T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ as a proto-Necrocene”, Fields: journal of Huddersfield student research 9(1). doi: https://doi.org/10.5920/fields.1275

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Authors

Samuel Joseph Higson-Blythe (University of Huddersfield)

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