Robert Browning's Impact on T. S. Eliot

Abstract

The debate about Robert Browning’s influence on T. S. Eliot’s use of dramatic monologue is by no means over. It has always been a focal point among critics to the extent that one can claim that no discussion of his use of the form can be complete without a reference to Browning, who was one of the most renowned writers in practicing the form. Therefore, critics have not ceased to compare T. S. Eliot with that Victorian poet, who preferred to create the art that conceals art. Besides, the extent of an impact from Browning on Eliot has been much debated, and, sometimes, contested, in the last several decades. The controversy is exacerbated as Eliot himself attempted to imply that there were more differences between Browning and himself than similarities. This paper aims at making a modest contribution to the ever-rising interest in the comparative studies in the Arab world by focusing on thoughts about the 'ethics' of comparative literature, and Eliot's work is one of the best areas of research that serves this purpose. More specifically, the paper aims at shedding light on Eliot's reticence in the context of 'influences in literature', a matter that Harold Bloom discusses extensively in The Anxiety of Influence: A Theory of Poetry.