T. S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” in the Context of “Nursery Rhymes” Tradition
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Abstract: This paper presents the results of a comparative study of the collection of poems Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939) by T. S. Eliot and the collection of children’s verses Mother Goose Old Nursery Rhymes (published in 1760), compiled and illustrated by A. Rackham (1913). Consisting of 15 poems, and distinguished by its frivolity against the background of other works by Eliot, the cycle Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats has been overlooked by both Russian and foreign researchers for a long time. Recently a surge of interest in this book of verse has been provoked by the release of a feature film Cats (2019) based on the world-famous musical by Andrew Lloyd Webber. This fact as well as the lack of serious academic studies of Eliot’s book of verse has determined the urgency and novelty of this paper. It is also important to show the involvement of this segment of Eliot’s poetry into the English literary tradition. The aim of this research is to identify the influence of Victorian aesthetics of nonsense on the poetry of T. S. Eliot’s cycle. The method of comparative analysis has been chosen as the main research method. Besides, structural-semantic and linguistic-cultural methods have been used. In understanding and interpreting the term “tradition” the author relies on Eliot’s aesthetics, in which this concept is central. The terminological unit “nursery rhymes” is used in its original traditional meaning since its historical and cultural background disappears in any Russian translation or scholarly interpretation. In the course of work, certain features of nur- sery rhymes have been identified in the poetic texts by the great Modernist. The study of the specificity of this genre (the playful atmosphere of the text, the special rhythms and forms of coding historical events, animalistic perspectives, the use of various repetitions and imitations, the creation of author’s occasionalisms and unusual names of characters, etc.) confirms strong influence of the tradition of English nursery rhymes on T. S. Eliot’s works.
Key words: Animal studies; poetic cycles; refrain; limerick; comparative studies; literary genres; literary creative activity.
Marshaniya, K. M. (2021). T. S. Eliot’s “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats” in the Context of “Nursery Rhymes” Tradition. In Philological Class. 2021. Vol. 26 ⋅ №2. P. 191–199. DOI 10.51762/1FK-2021-26-02-16.