The Reconstruction of the European Mind: T. S. Eliot’s <i>Criterion</i> and the Idea of Europe

  • Jeroen Vanheste Open University
Keywords: The Criterion, idea of Europe, European identity, T.S. Eliot

Abstract

T. S. Eliot was the founder and editor of the Criterion, a literary and cultural review with a European focus that was published during the interwar period. The Criterion functioned as a platform for intellectuals with a shared perception of European culture and European identity. It was part of a network of European periodicals that facilitated an intellectual exchange between writers and thinkers with a common orientation. Examples of other reviews in the Criterion network were the Nouvelle Revue Française from France, La Fiera Letteraria and Il Convegno from Italy, the Revista de Occidente from Spain (edited by José Ortega y Gasset), and Die Neue Rundschau, the Europäische Revue, and the Neue deutsche Beiträge (edited by Hugo von Hofmannsthal) from Germany.

In this article, I investigate the specific role the Criterion network of reviews and intellectuals played as an infrastructure for the dissemination of ideas about European culture during the interwar period. I also discuss the content of these ideas about the ‘European mind’. As to the latter, I suggest that Eliot positioned himself as well as his magazine in the European tradition of humanist thinking. Unfortunately, the Criterion’s ambition for a reconstruction of the European mind would dissipate as the European orientation of the 1920s was displaced by the political events of the 1930s.

Eliot and his Criterion network expressed a Europeanism that has often been overlooked in recent research. The ideas discussed in this network remain interesting in our time, in which discussions about European values and European identity are topical. What is also highly interesting is the role cultural reviews played during the interwar period as a medium for exchanging such ideas.

Published
2018-12-11
Section
Articles