Tuesday, 13 October 2015, 6:00PM
Museum of London

Poetry and Exile: T. S. Eliot, 'Four Quartets'

Professor Belinda Jack

These poems retain a stubborn opacity and no interpretation is ever wholly satisfactory. The difficulty of Eliot's poetry is partly a function of the poems' dense allusions to so much other poetry. But by expoloring the idea of exile in relation to locality and the idea of space more abstractly, the shape of Four Quartets as descriptive of a spiritual journey comes into better focus. Autobiographically it is clear that Burnt Norton, the house and its extensive gardens, East Coker, and above all the religious community at Little Gidding, matter greatly to our understanding of both Eliot's life and also his poetry. But the antithesis of place, that is the idea of exile from place, is equally important.

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Belinda Jack is Fellow and Tutor in French at Christ Church, University of Oxford. She features regularly in the press and media thanks to the popularity and insight of her published works, including books such as The Woman Reader, George Sand: A Woman’s Life Writ Large and Negritude and Literary Criticism: The History and Theory of "Negro-African" Literature in French.

Professor Jack obtained her D.Phil. in Negritude and Literary Criticism at St John’s College, University of Oxford in 1989, having earlier obtained a degree in French with African and Caribbean Studies from the University of Kent. Her academic career over the past twenty years has been at Christ Church, University of Oxford, where she is an ‘Official Student’ (Fellow and Member of the Governing Body) and Tutor in French. Her main interest lies in French literature of the 19th and 20th centuries.

As well as her five books, Professor Jack is widely published through her many articles, essays, chapters and reviews. Her recent articles and reviews have appeared in The Wall Street Journal, Literary Review, Times Literary Supplement, Times Higher Education Supplement, BBC History Magazine and Littérature. She is a regular on the BBC and international radio and television, as well as a frequent speaker at literary festivals throughout the British Isles and beyond.

In 2013 Professor Jack was appointed the Gresham Professor of Rhetoric. In her first year of appointment, her Gresham College lectures were on The Mysteries of Reading and Writing. She writes of her appointment and the series:

“Reading is a subject which has long fascinated me, not least because of my role in teaching undergraduate students to read ‘difficult’ literature with the greatest attention to detail, structure and internal connections. My most recent book, The Woman Reader, is a history of women’s reading from ancient times to the present day, and the writing of it deepened my interest in the subject of reading more generally. My Gresham lectures will draw on some of the material on which I based my book, including material that I didn’t have space to treat, and on the research I am currently undertaking. My primary aim will be to encourage informed reading of a wide range of material, which will make us reconsider literature, ourselves and the society in which we live.”

In 2015/16, Professor Jack continues her professorship with her third lecture series entitled The Mysteries of Writing Poems and Plays.

Professor Jack's previous lecture series' are as follows:

2014/15 The Mysteries of Writing Novels and Poems
2013/14 The Mysteries of Reading and Writing

All of Professor Jack's past Gresham lectures can be accessed here.

Current Gresham Professor of Rhetoric

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13 October 2015

Poetry and Exile: T. S. Eliot, 'Four Quartets'
Professor Belinda Jack

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