Megan Quigley is an associate professor of English at Villanova University, where she is also on the Irish Studies and the Gender and Women’s Studies faculties. She is the author of Modernist Fiction and Vagueness: Philosophy, Form, and Language (Cambridge University Press, 2015) and coeditor, with David E. Chinitz, of Eliot Now (forthcoming, Bloomsbury Academic Press). Her new book project examines the relationship between Eliot and fiction.
In 1994, when I was an undergraduate English major in California, I had the opportunity to interview Adrienne Rich, whose poetry was the subject of my senior thesis. I was nervous. I wanted to know about the influence of T. S. Eliot upon her poetry. Ever courteous, looking me in the eye, Rich was definite. Eliot’s anti-Semitism, his New Critical impersonality, and his declared self-definition as “classicist in literature, royalist in politics, and anglo-catholic in religion,” had made him dangerous, dated, or, at best, irrelevant to Rich at this moment in her life. While she had been “raised in the school of Eliot,” now, as a radical lesbian poet, she found that “Eliot was useless to me.”