“Dying with a Little Patience”: A Reading of The Waste Land in Juxtaposition with Theology
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Literature holds a distinct value in providing an image of human experience that enriches theological discussion and invites substantial reflection on human existence. This thesis follows Paul Fiddes’s method of juxtaposition for literature and theology to offer the possibility of an “opening of horizons” between the two disciplines. In following with this method, an exegetical reading of T. S. Eliot’s 1922 poem The Waste Land is juxtaposed with an exposition of three relevant theological themes: devotedness and desire, tragedy, and eschatology. This account of Eliot’s poem primarily focusses on the image of living death that Eliot develops through a description of the unintelligibility of tragedy, and the breakdown of the self that is the consequence of this state of death in life. The poem raises a question of the possibility of restoration in light of this experience of tragic suffering. Theological accounts of desire, tragedy, and eschatology, particularly the work of Sarah Coakley, Donald MacKinnon, and Fiddes, respectively, elicit responses in terms of the theological horizons that Eliot’s depictions of human experience raise. The study of literature and theology is invaluable in creating a theological landscape that engages with the mediating contribution of representations of human experience.