“Now and in England:” Four Quartets, Place and Martin Heidegger’s Concept of Dwelling

Yeats Eliot Review 29 (1/2):3-18 (2012)
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Abstract
T.S. Eliot’s Four Quartets is foremost a meditation on the significance of place. Each quartet is named for a place which holds importance for Eliot, either because of historical or personal memory. I argue that this importance is grounded in an ontological topology, by which I mean that the poem explores the fate of the individual and his/her heritage as inextricably bound up with the notion of place. This sense of place extends beyond the borders of a single life to encompass the remembered past and the unknown future. How this broader narrative of the passing and enduring of human existence can be better understood is a primary concern of the work of Martin Heidegger, in whose Being and Time the historical, situated context of an individual within a community is an important theme. Even more important is his later work in which this theme is extended to include place and dwelling. Dwelling is a particularly rich and poetic idea, weaving the narratological, topological and temporal aspects of human existence together, offering a challenge to modern technology thinking. This paper explores Heidegger’s thoughts on the topology of Being within the context of a poem which, I contend, is also telling the story of human situatedness, and attempting to understand what it means to truly dwell.
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