"Heart of Light": Emily Hale and 'The Birth of Tragedy' in 'The Waste Land'

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This essay reads Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’ in light of Nietzsche’s ‘Birth of Tragedy’. It proposes that Eliot finds a solution to the problem of human desire in the metaphysics and aesthetics of Nietzsche and Schopenhauer. The essay focuses on Nietzsche’s reading of Wagner’s ‘Tristan and Isolde’, understood through Schopenhauer’s philosophy of will. The essay suggests that Wagner’s opera, which Eliot connects to his love for Emily Hale, lies at the heart of both ‘The Waste Land’ and ‘Four Quartets’. Informed by Schopenhauer’s philosophy and elucidated by Nietzsche, 'Tristan' affords Eliot a means of sublimating desire through a metaphysics of will; music-as-will implies the universality of art and is one route to moving beyond the personal. Particular attention is paid to Eliot’s little-discussed 1916 review of Abraham Wolf’s study 'The Philosophy of Nietzsche'. The essay is published in Volume 4 of the Eliot Studies Annual, celebrating the centenary of the publication of 'The Waste Land'.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43 - 55
Number of pages12
JournalT. S. Eliot Studies Annual
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 1 Mar 2022


  • T. S. Eliot
  • Nietzsche
  • Birth of Tragedy
  • Music


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