Students, scholars and the mid-Missouri community will come together Nov. 3 to celebrate the centennial of T. S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land. Born and raised in St. Louis, Eliot went on to become an international literary figure and Nobel Prize winner. One hundred years after the publication of his most famous poem, a new BBC documentary reveals the secret love story behind his poem of personal anguish and alienation.
The public is invited to a reception, display of creative work, and a free screening of T. S. Eliot—Into The Waste Land Thursday, Nov. 3, 6:30-8:30 p.m., at the State Historical Society of Missouri Center for Missouri Studies, 605 Elm Street, Columbia. The 80-minute film will begin at 7 p.m.
Director Susanna White, acclaimed for her film adaptations of Bleak House and Jane Eyre, tells the story of Eliot’s poem, drawing from his unpublished letters to Emily Hale, an American drama teacher. After its broadcast in England earlier this fall, critics described “Into The Waste Land” as “a sensual treat for both newcomers and poetry experts” and “the place to go this week for beauty and cheer.”
Students at the University of Missouri have responded to Eliot’s poem in their own voices through poetry, stories, drama and music. Their contributions will be on display during the reception.
“After 100 years, we can understand Eliot’s poem far better than his early readers could,” said Frances Dickey, Eliot scholar and associate professor of English at Mizzou. “Though Eliot traveled far from Missouri, he never forgot his childhood, writing that St. Louis and the Mississippi River ‘affected me more deeply than any other environment.’ Susanna White’s film and the creative work of our students help to reestablish the poet’s ties with Missouri.” Dickey also noted that White shot scenes in St. Louis and along the Mississippi, in addition to filming in London.
This free public event is supported by the Davidson Fellowship, the University of Missouri Department of English, and the MU Office of Undergraduate Research. The State Historical Society of Missouri is a co-sponsor of the event.