Shelkovich Mikhail

The Function of Homeric and Dantean Allusions in T. S. Eliot’s "The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock"

Shelkovich Mikhail (2014) "The Function of Homeric and Dantean Allusions in T. S. Eliot’s "The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock" ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia III : Filologiia, 2014, vol. 39, pp. 82-95 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturIII201439.82-95


The article concerns Homeric and Dantean allusions in one the most important early pieces of work by T. S. Eliot «The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock», the title poem of the collection «Prufrock and Other Observations» (publ. 1915), so far preserving the reputation of an obscure and fragmentary one. The analysis of these allusions shows correlation between certain details of the lyrical structure and throws light upon some obscure passages in the poem. The comparison of the Homeric and Dantean reminiscences at the beginning and the end of the poem reveals a circular structure, which is confi rmed by the strophic structure as well. Comparing the the number of lines in «Prufrock» to that in Canto XXVII (from which the epigraph to the poem is taken) of Dante’s «Hell» and in the passage (which is paraphrased in the last line of «Prufrock») from Book XI of «Odyssey», shows that the poem follows the pattern of them both and is framed by the allusions to these works. Moreover, these allusions form a continuum spanning from the Trojan war to the World War I. The biographical material related to the time of creation of the poem, i.e., the circumstances of the friendship between young T. S. Eliot and Jean Verdenal, the adressee of the collection «Prufrock and Other Observations», during the poet’s stay in Paris in 1910–11, elucidates anew the relationship of «you and I» in the fi rst line of the poem. The analysis of the Dantean intertext unearthes the importance of Guido da Montefeltro, cited in the epigraph of the poem, and Ulysses, with whom he shares the same circle of Dante’s hell, for understanding this passage. The dichotomy of these characters is compared to the relationship between the speaking voice of the poem («I») and the auditor («you»). The analysis of the Homeric allusions suggests that the image of Tiresias, usually associated with Eliot’s poem «The Waste Land» (1922), was a part of the poet’s image system as early as «Prufrock».


T.S. Eliot, Prufrock, Dante, Homer, Verdenal, Tiresias, circular structure, «you and I»


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Shelkovich Mikhail