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Revisiting the Waste Land
Robert Motherwell Book Award 2006
The winners of the 2006 Robert Motherwell Book Award are Revisiting the Waste Land (Yale University Press) and The Annotated Waste Land with Eliot’s Contemporary Prose (Yale University Press) by Lawrence Rainey.
In this pair of remarkable books, Lawrence Rainey has recovered the original challenge of T. S. Eliot’s poetic masterpiece and has salvaged The Waste Land from its canonical interment as a model of neoclassicism. In effect, Rainey has rescued this avatar of modernism from the revisionist reading sanctioned by the poet himself in his famous “Notes” to the poem. In Rainey’s books, the poem reacquires its intensely expressive character along with its deep humanity. Through perceptive critical reading and impressive literary scholarship, Rainey establishes the sequence of composition and the shifting intentions of the poem as it came into being. He also provides fascinating analyses of the cultural and economic politics of modernist publishing, and of the initial critical reception of The Waste Land. As Rainey convincingly demonstrates, it was Eliot himself who, as a result of his own changing values, led the enterprise of taming the wildness of his creation and securing its position in the academic curriculum. In restoring to The Waste Land its original power, Lawrence Rainey’s books perform the invaluable service of reaffirming the radical nature of modernism itself.
Lawrence Rainey is professor of modernist literature in the Department of English at the University of York. He is also the author of Institutions of Modernism: Literary Elites and Public Culture, and founding editor of Modernism/Modernity, a leading journal in its field.
The Dedalus Foundation was established by the will of Robert Motherwell and is dedicated to fostering the understanding and appreciation of modern art and the traditions of modernism.