Speaking the unnameable: A phenomenology of sense in T. S. Eliot's Four Quartets

Jurate Levina

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Through its ostensibly philosophical rhetoric and multiple allusions, Four Quartets manifests a continuity between Eliot’s poetic thought and his early engagement with philosophy. The thematic core of this continuity is Eliot’s concern with the meaningful experience of reality, described as equally dependent on direct perception and on linguistic structure: language shapes perception into a meaningful world-vision, while experience itself is an ongoing process of interpreting (or signifying) that which is perceived. This link empowers poetic language, entangling the reading consciousness in a process to which Husserl’s descriptions of consciousness refer as “sense-giving.” Four Quartets epitomizes both the phenomenological description and the poetic enactment of meaningful experience. Its opening movement both mimics the structure of experienced reality and keeps the reading eye in the process of making sense in its full complexity, involving all faculties of apprehending reality, from the metaphysical logo-centric systems underlying conceptual understanding of the world to the direct sensuous perception of immediate environment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)194-211
JournalJournal of Modern Literature
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2013


  • T. S. Eliot
  • Edmund Husserl
  • phenomenology
  • semiotics
  • aesthetics


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