THE WASTE LAND Revisited: T.S. Eliot’s Diagnosis of Modernity

A century ago, T.S. Eliot wrote The Waste Land, a monumental poem that diagnosed the ills of modernity which have only intensified since the work took the literary world by storm in 1922. The long and difficult poem, modernist in style if not in substance, was a tour de force written by the most learned poet of his time, a man steeped not only in the literary traditions of the past, but equally well read in the fields of culture, history, philosophy and theology. Moved by the same fierce intellectual curiosity that animated a Socrates or a St. Augustine, Eliot was a seeker intent on finding answers to life’s perennial questions. The poem, which in final form ran to nearly four hundred lines, is an Erasmus-like reflection on the state of mankind – its pain and suffering, its failures and folly; its longing for goodness, beauty and love, side-by-side with the daily reality of life apparently shorn of significance, value and purpose. The honest diagnosis is grim and not for the faint of heart, but also raises possibilities for remedy and relief. For those who have never read The Waste Land, or who have attempted to study it over only one or two class periods, this eight-week course will provide an in-depth look at one of the great poems of our age – great owing to its power, profundity and apprehension of truth.


About Instructor

John Freeh

Dr. Freeh is the Director of the Newman Institute for Catholic Thought and Culture. A native of Jersey City, N.J., he has studied and taught in D.C., Chicago, Spokane, Pittsburgh and Oxford, England. Tempted by the adventurous spirit of the West (and a strong nudge from Providence), he left a tenured position at Hillsdale College in order to teach at Wyoming Catholic College and assist in the development of its Great Books curriculum. Following similar promptings, he was eager to help found a program in Lincoln inspired by Blessed John Henry Newman’s ideal of a liberal arts education, which seeks to form the whole person: mind, body and spirit. Newman’s motto – cor ad cor loquitur, or, heart speaks to heart – has been integral to his own educational philosophy. He is a life-long teacher: his fields are Renaissance Literature, Shakespeare and T.S. Eliot. Dr. Freeh enjoys travel, hiking, and camping with his growing family. He finds himself so very blessed on the path Providence has laid for him and wishes all to take encouragement, as he has, from Newman’s wise words about the human condition: “God has created me to do him some definite service… I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught.”

1 Course

Not Enrolled

Course Includes

  • 6 Lessons
  • Course Certificate