Language in the Middle Way: T. S. Eliot’s Engagement with Madhyamaka Buddhism in Four Quartets
Journal of the American Academy of Religion
In this paper, I trace the influence that Buddhist texts had on the poetic design and philosophical orientation of T. S. Eliot’s Four Quartets. References to the “middle way” in the poems point us to texts from the very earliest moments of the Buddhist tradition, texts to which Eliot had access. More specifically, I develop the suggestion offered by Jeffrey Perl and Andrew Tuck that the work of Nagarjuna, the second-century founder of the Madhyamaka school of Buddhism (the so-called “Middle Way” school), could have played an important role in T. S. Eliot’s philosophical and poetic development. I employ Perl and Tuck’s assertion as a hermeneutical lens through which to analyze Eliot’s work. I suggest that Eliot’s allusions to the “middle way” in Four Quartets can usefully be understood through Nagarjuna’s causal analysis and linguistic theories, themselves codifications in part of the earlier Buddhist priorities.
Upton, Edward, "Language in the Middle Way: T. S. Eliot’s Engagement with Madhyamaka Buddhism in Four Quartets" (2018). Christ College Faculty Publications. 54.