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The influences of Wagner on ‘The Waste Land’ by T S Eliot – Geoff Fisher

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Saturday 23 Jul 2022
3:00 pm to 4:30 pm

This year marks the 100th Anniversary of the publication of the most influential poem of the twentieth century: The Waste Land by T.S. Eliot. The year 1922 also saw the appearance of other key works of literary modernism: Ulysses by James Joyce and Jacob’s Room by Virginia Woolf. As Alex Ross has recently recounted in his Wagnerism, the life and works of Richard Wagner have had a pervasive influence on modernism in all branches of the arts. This influence is particularly apparent in The Waste Land which contains quotations from and allusions to Tristan und Isolde, Götterdämmerung and Parsifal. The Waste Land is dense with cultural and literary references, eschews a single narrative voice and presents a variety of discontinuous scenes. It exemplifies literary modernism at its most radical. Its broad thrust is clear enough though: a disillusioned view of the modern world as sterile and empty, relieved only by a tentative suggestion that a form of redemption might be possible. Geoff’s presentation will offer an examination of Wagner’s influence, direct and indirect, on the modernist techniques and practices employed by Eliot in his poem. A brief biography of Eliot will include how he came to Wagner’s music and how he was attracted to the mythic force and psychological insight of the Wagnerian music drama. The presentation will be informed by musical excerpts which correspond to the texts or scenes from the Wagner operas referenced by Eliot. By siting these references to the operas in the context of the poem, it is hoped to explicate some of themes and patterns of meaning in the poem, as well as revealing how Wagnerian quotations and allusions enhance the dramatic impact sought by Eliot.

You are invited to register for the Meeting by informing our Secretary Rosemary Cater-Smith at or via the ‘Contact’ page of the website, and making a bank transfer to Bank of Queensland, BSB: 124021 Account Number: 22612919. Payments are $15 for members and $20 for non-members. Please use your name and the month (eg Jones July) to identify your payment.