Conquering timeA. Akhmatova's "Poem without a hero" and t.S. Eliot's "Four quartets"

  1. Anna Kurasova
Supervised by:
  1. Viorica Patea Director

Defence university: Universidad de Salamanca

Year of defence: 2020

Committee:
  1. Giuliana Ferreccio Chair
  2. Dídac Llorens Cubedo Secretary
  3. Olga Ushakova Committee member

Type: Thesis

Abstract

This thesis aims at reflecting the notion of time as discussed in Poem Without a Hero by Anna Akhmatova and Four Quartets by Thomas Stearns Eliot. Despite the abundance of studies on the poets, rarely is their poetry discussed in conjunction. This dissertation seeks several objectives. Firstly, it establishes the connection between the two poets, which justifies the internationality of Modernism and shows the influential role of Russian Modernism. Secondly, the present study suggests a comparative reading of Poem Without a Hero and Four Quartets as two major Modernist poems that complete each other when read together. By doing so, this dissertation demonstrates that the concept of time was central for Eliot’s and Akhmatova’s worldview. The close reading of the poems shows that structure- and idea-wise, they are reminiscent of Dante’s voyage from inferno to paradiso, and like him, Eliot and Akhmatova believe that Christianity, to use Berdyaev’s phrasing, “attaches meaning to time and to history within time”. In Poem Without a Hero and Four Quartets, time surpasses trivial linearity and thus, history ceases to be unredeemable. Instead, time becomes synonymous with atonement and freedom if one is to strive for them. Analysing the multidimensional time of Poem Without a Hero and Four Quartets, where “what might have been” interacts with “what is” and where ghosts come not only from the past but also from the future, the thesis concludes that for Eliot and Akhmatova, time is merciless yet purifying. The significance of the comparative reading of the two texts lies in, first, shedding new light on Poem Without a Hero and Four Quartets as poems in which the time is invested with spiritual value. Moreover, their comparison enhances the hopeful message behind the verses, even in Akhmatova’s Poem Without a Hero where hope is barely visible. Despite the tragic tonalities evident in the two poems, both affirm the value of time and our memory of it alongside the significance of selfless love and humility. Thus, the words of Akhmatova and Eliot in Poem Without a Hero and Four Quartets become those words that “can defeat death”, as well as “conquer time”.