Cultural depictions of T. S. Eliot

Cultural depictions of T. S. Eliot

The cultural depictions of T. S. Eliot reference his work as a writer as well as his biography.

Also, see:

The following lists are classified according to media.


Literature (etc.)

  • In 1941, Henry Reed published Chard Whitlow, an intelligent and witty satire on Burnt Norton. Eliot wrote, "Most parodies of one's own work strike one as very poor. In fact, one is apt to think one could parody oneself much better. (As a matter of fact, some critics have said that I have done so.) But there is one which deserves the success it has had, Henry Reed's Chard Whitlow."[citation needed]
  • "The Waste Land" is referenced in The Long Goodbye by detective novelist Raymond Chandler.
  • In the autobiographical A Severe Mercy, Sheldon Vanauken's admiration for Eliot's poetry lends credibility in Vanauken's eyes to Christianity and plays a part, along with letters from C. S. Lewis, in his conversion.
  • A favorite of present-day Christians is "Choruses from 'The Rock'," a poem decrying what Eliot saw as the decadence of Western thought from the sublime (the Word as the Revelation of God, wisdom, life) to the humdrum (information, living).
  • Novelist Dean Koontz often refers to Eliot: his 2004 novel The Taking is heavily influenced by Eliot's work and quotes extensively from it.
  • On September 20, 2005, a series of unpublished letters from Eliot and an author-inscribed first edition of The Waste Land plus many related items were sold at auction for nearly $438,000. [1]
  • The poet Wendy Cope published two parodies of Eliot, 'A Nursery Rhyme (as it might have been written by T. S. Eliot)' and 'Waste Land Limericks' in her collection Making Cocoa for Kingsley Amis (1986). The latter poem reduces 'The Waste Land' to five limericks, each corresponding to a section of Eliot's poem.
  • Stephen King's Dark Tower series makes references to The Waste Land. The third novel is even titled The Dark Tower III: The Waste Lands.
  • In the opening of his novel On the Beach, Nevil Shute quotes the final lines of The Hollow Men. The novel takes its name from the tenth stanza.
  • Iain M. Banks's novels Consider Phlebas and Look to Windward derive their titles from The Waste Land.
  • The title of Evelyn Waugh’s 1934 novel A Handful of Dust is a quotation from The Waste Land.
  • In Kurt Vonnegut's 1985 novel Galápagos, the book's invention, Mandarax, quotes Eliot: "In depraved May, dogwood and chestnut, flowering Judas, To be eaten, to be divided, to be drunk Among whispers..."
  • In Catch 22 he is mentioned when Col. Cargill says "name one poet who makes money." Ex. PFC. Wintergreen calls him without identifying himself and says "T. S. Eliot." There is later a T. S. Eliot phone tag between other Colonel and Generals.
  • In Lemony Snicket's book The Austere Academy, the Baudelaire orphans attend Alfred J. Prufrock Preparatory School. In the eleventh book, The Grim Grotto, T. S. Eliot is mentioned as being a better poet than Edgar Guest.
  • Martin Rowson has published a graphic novel of The Wasteland written in the style of a Raymond Chandler detective story.
  • The last line of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,"--"Till human voices wake us, and we drown"--is used in its shortened form "Till Human Voices Wake Us" as the title of not only a science fiction novel by Mike Budz, but also short stories by Lewis Shiner and Lisa Tuttle.


  • The lyrics to the Genesis song "Cinema Show" (from 1973's Selling England by the Pound) are an adaptation of the typist and young man scene from "The Fire Sermon" section of The Waste Land. Compare "Home from work our Juliet clears her morning meal" (Genesis) to "The typist home at teatime, clears her breakfast" (Eliot); "weekend millionaire" (Genesis) to "Bradford millionaire" (Eliot), etc.
  • The Rush song "Open Secrets" (from 1987's Hold Your Fire) includes the line "That's not what I meant at all" (cf. "That is not what I meant at all" from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock").
  • The Manic Street Preachers song "My Guernica" includes the line "Alfred J. Prufrock would be proud of me".
  • Frank Turner's second album 'Love Ire & Song' features the song 'I Knew Prufrock Before He Got Famous.'
  • The Simon and Garfunkel song "The Dangling Conversation," famously covered by Joan Baez, is in some ways a reinterpretation of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."
  • The band Crash Test Dummies released a song called "Afternoons & Coffeespoons" from the album God Shuffled His Feet in the early 1990s. This song, too, borrows from and pays homage to "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock."
  • "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" was also referred to by Chuck D of the seminal rap group Public Enemy, in Niggativaty, Do I Dare Disturb the Universe, on his solo album The Autobiography of Mistachuck.
  • The band Circle Takes the Square uses lines from several Eliot's poems in many of their songs, i.e. Patchwork Neurology ("Do I dare disturb universe" from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock") or A Crater To Cough In ("I who have sat by Thebes below the wall and walked among the lowest of the dead (to Carthage then I came)" from The Waste Land).
  • Liverpool poet Adrian Henri included "Poem in Memoriam T. S. Eliot" in the best-selling 1968 anthology The Mersey Sound.
  • In Bob Dylan's song "Desolation Row", Ezra Pound and Eliot fight in the captain's tower.
  • In Melbourne band TISM's song "Mistah Eliot - He Wanker," there are numerous references to Eliot. One such line is; "T. S. Eliot lost his wallet when he went into town/Serves him right for hangin' round with the likes of Ezra Pound."
  • London rock band Million Dead's album A Song to Ruin was greatly influenced by The Waste Land, especially the 14 minute closer to the album, "The Rise and Fall".
  • Canadian singer Sarah Slean wrote a song about T. S. Eliot, simply entitled "Eliot."
  • Tori Amos's song Pretty Good Year from 1994's Under The Pink album features the lines, "I heard the Eternal Footman/Bought himself a bike to race". The Eternal Footman comes from Eliot's "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", where it symbolises death.
  • In the song "Time Waits For No One", the 1970s/'80s pop band Ambrosia uses the line "With decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse" from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock".
  • In the song "The Chemicals Between Us", the British alternative rock band Bush makes reference to "The Hollow Men" in the line, "we're of hollow men we are the naked ones".
  • Norma Jean's song Disconecktie is literally a reworded rendition of Eliot's "Choruses from the rock"
  • Leeds rock band The Third take their name from the stanza in The Waste Land beginning "Who is the third who walks always beside you?". They often use a recorded reading of this by Scottish poet Johnny Solstice over an electronica piece as introductory music to their live sets.
  • The Allman Brothers Band possibly titled their well-known 1972 album Eat a Peach from the line "Do I dare to eat a peach?" from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock". This was also a reference to their Georgia roots.[citation needed]
  • East River Pipe, a musical project of Fred Cornog, has a song titled "What Does T. S. Eliot Know About You?" on his 2006 Merge Records release What Are You On?
  • The screamo band Circle Takes the Square directly quote The Waste Land in "A Crater To Cough In", and reference the poem many times throughout their full-length As the Roots Undo.
  • King Crimson's "The Deception of the Thrush" takes its title from the Eliot Poem "Burnt Norton" and the lyrics are sampled from a reading of The Waste Land. There are no set selections from the poem, however, because it changes every night. It tends to be from part one, The Burial of the Dead.
  • Lead singer Andrew Schwab of the Christian rock band Project 86 was heavily influenced by Eliot and wrote the song "Hollow Again", which includes, among others, the repeated line "This is how the world ends..." from Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men".
  • Van Morrison mentions Eliot, along with William Blake, W.B. Yeats, Lady Gregory, and James Joyce in his song, "Summertime In England."
  • The opening line of Eliot's poem The Waste Land, "April, the cruellest month" was used by the British band Hot Chip as the first line of the song 'Playboy' on their Coming On Strong album.
  • The lyrics of Bayside's "Talking of Michelangelo" are based on "The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock".
  • 'Biomusicology' by Ted Leo and the Pharmacists contains the line "Oed' und leer das Meer" from Tristan und Isolde, which Eliot also quotes in The Waste Land.
  • The punk band Ecoabios released a semi-improvised musical interpretation of The Hollow Men
  • The song "Frozen Laughter" (1966) by The Rising Storm quotes from "The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock"
  • The progressive rock group Gentle Giant has an album entitled "Eat the Peach", their answer to the question in "The Love Song of Alfred J. Prufrock"

Film, television and theatre

  • The musical CATS by Andrew Lloyd Webber (1981) is based on Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.
  • The 1994 film Tom & Viv is a dramatization of the strained relationship between Eliot and his first wife. The movie was adapted by Michael Hastings and Adrian Hodges from the 1984 play of the same name by Hastings.
  • In the movie Apocalypse Now, based on the Joseph Conrad novel Heart of Darkness, one of the side-characters, a photographer obsessed with the life of the elusive Colonel Kurtz, quotes "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock," specifically the lines, "I should have been a pair of ragged claws / Scuttling across the floors of silent seas." Marlon Brando's character Kurtz later reads Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men": "We are the Hollow Men, / We are the stuffed men..." Eliot's poem "The Hollow Men" quotes Heart of Darkness in its epigraph — "Mistah Kurtz—he dead." The American photojournalist (Dennis Hopper) also refers to the end of "The Hollow Men" when speaking to Willard.
  • The T.V. movie of Stephen King's The Stand begins with the quotation of Eliot of "This is the way the world ends, This is the way the world ends, This is the way the world ends, Not with a bang but a whimper."
  • "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock" is referenced in Hill Street Blues.
  • The title of the film I've Heard the Mermaids Singing is derived from a line from "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock"
  • In the Doctor Who episode "The Lazarus Experiment" both the Doctor and Lazarus quote T. S. Eliot's poem The Hollow Men. The Doctor completes Lazarus' quotation with the line, "Falls the Shadow" — which has been used as the title of a Doctor Who novel. The Doctor later tells Martha that Eliot got it right in saying that it all ends "not with a bang, but a whimper". The Doctor also alludes to Eliot's reference to Lazarus in The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock: "I am Lazarus, come from the dead."
  • There is also a Doctor Who novel called The Hollow Men featuring animated scarecrows.
  • The last line of "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock,"--"Till human voices wake us, and we drown"--is the title of the 2002 film Till Human Voices Wake Us featuring Guy Pearce and Helena Bonham Carter.
  • Tracy Letts's August: Osage County features several Eliot quotations, especially of The Hollow Men; the prologue ends with patriarch Bev Weston quoting "here we go round the prickly pear..." and the play ends with housekeeper Johnna singing the poem's "this is the way the world ends" stanza.


  • There is a blue plaque on one at the north west corner of Russell Square in London, commemorating the fact that T. S. Eliot worked there for many years while he was the poetry editor for the publisher Faber & Faber.
  • English singer-songwriter Liz Kearton produced a complete musical setting of The Wasteland and The Love song of J Alfred Prufrock in 2006.
  • In his youth, Anthony Burgess (1917–1993) composed musical settings of Sweeney Agonistes (for voices and piano, ca. 1935) and "Lines for an Old Man" (for old man and four instruments, ca. 1939). In 1951, he presented staged musical presentations of his songs from Sweeney Agonistes in Banbury.
  • In 1937, Burgess performed a "musico-dramatic presentation" of The Waste Land as a student at the University of Manchester. This was a modified version of an arrangement by Geoffrey Bridson that had been performed earlier that year, with T. S. Eliot's permission, on BBC North Regional (Manchester). In 1978, Burgess composed a new setting of The Waste Land for narrator, soprano, flute, oboe, cello and piano. It was premiered on 14 October 1978 at Sarah Lawrence College. Burgess was supposed to have been the narrator for that performance, but was unable to travel to the US due to illness. In that performance, Chester Biscardi conducted the Laurentian Chamber Players: Gerardo Levy, flute; Ronald Roseman, oboe; Michael Rudiakov, cello; Joel Spiegelman, piano; and Catherine Rowe, soprano. The writer Brendan Gill narrated. Burgess's 1978 version of The Waste Land was performed a second time on 30 September 1982 in Merkin Hall at the Abraham Goodman House in New York City, again performed by the Laurentian Chamber Players, this time with Gwendolyn Mok, piano; Raffael Adler, conductor; and Charles de Carlo, narrator. These two performances were given with the permission of the Eliot estate, but further performances were prohibited as long as The Waste Land remained under copyright protection.


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