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T. S. Eliot and the Literature of Fascism


This article examines T. S. Eliot’s review-essay of five seminal studies of Italian Fascism and critically interconnects the key arguments put forth in each book. Published in 1928 in the Criterion, the poet-critic’s influential literary magazine, the omnibus book review constitutes his most sustained, if skeptical, exploration of the radical political movement, still a rising phenomenon at the time. Although Eliot presents himself as politically naïve, he exhibits a surprisingly cogent and nuanced understanding of Fascism’s political economy, mass psychology, and mythico-heroic apparatus. Contrasting his Christian-inflected antifascist political and cultural thought with the Fascist commitments of Ezra Pound, his one-time collaborator and fellow American modernist poet, the present article argues that Eliot advocated a tradition-based separation of church and state as a hedge against all forms of totalitarian ideology.

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