1st Edition

T. S. Eliot and the Mother

  • Available for pre-order. Item will ship after May 5, 2021
ISBN 9780367759193
May 5, 2021 Forthcoming by Routledge
288 Pages 19 B/W Illustrations

USD $170.00

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Book Description

This book emphasises the importance of T. S. Eliot’s mother, Charlotte, to his life and works. It radically rethinks Eliot’s ambivalence towards women in the context of mother-son ambivalence and shows how his search for belief and love converged with a developing maternal poetics.

The study combines literary-critical methods with innovative psychological theorisations of mother-child relationships. It examines Eliot’s changing representations of the mother/mother-child relationship, focusing on decisive mid-career works: Ash-Wednesday (1930), ‘Marina’ (1930), ‘Coriolan’ (1931-32) and The Family Reunion (1939). It gives unprecedented attention to Charlotte’s life and writings.

Drawing on new Eliot materials, Geary’s book challenges long-standing critical attitudes toward the poet. Moreover, it promotes the benefits of recognising and exploring maternal subjectivity. T. S. Eliot and the Mother reveals the role of the mother and the dynamics of mother-son ambivalence to be more complicated, changeable and essential to Eliot’s personal, religious and poetic development than previously acknowledged.

Table of Contents


1 ‘There will be time to murder and create’:
Creative/Destructive Ambivalence in T. S. Eliot’s Early Poetry

2 Maternal Allegory:
Death and the Mother, Faith and Revelation in Ash-Wednesday

3 Ash-Wednesday: A Poetics of the Maternal Body

4 Recognition in ‘Marina’ and ‘Coriolan’:

Sea-Changes in Eliot’s Thinking on the Maternal

5 ‘Everything Has Always Been Referred Back to Mother’:

The Melodramatic Staging of Ambivalence in The Family Reunion

Conclusion: T. S. Eliot’s Stabat Mater

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Matthew Geary is an independent scholar in English Literature, Modernism, Psychoanalysis, Feminist Philosophy, Critical Theory, and Maternal Studies.


"T.S. Eliot and the Mother offers timely and erudite insight into how the T.S. Eliot’s psychological relationship with his mother, Charlotte, underwrites much of Eliot’s literary output. Geary is a fastidious Eliot scholar and his psychoanalytical approach to the ‘maternal poetics’ is a key scholarly source for better appreciating the psychological drama of T.S. Eliot and the female divine." -- Dr. Scott Freer, Teaching Fellow in English Literature, University of Leicester, UK.


"A profound contribution to both maternal studies and scholarship on T.S. Eliot’s life and works, Geary puts Charlotte Eliot and mother-child ambivalence at the centre of Eliot’s poetic works. Through close analysis of key poems that keep both Charlotte and her son’s poetic oeuvre in the frame, Geary draws out an innovative thesis that Eliot remains gripped by a latent fascination with the mother, we could say with his own ‘internal’ mother, whereby poetry itself becomes a passage, a means of working through maternal ambivalence." --  Dr. Lisa Baraitser, Professor of Psychosocial Theory, Birkbeck, University of London, UK.