This paper considers Eliot's poetic rendering of light through the evolving medium of the eye. The eye became for Eliot an increasingly contested symbol of empirical vision and its opposite, the inner vision, which may or may not reveal the "truth" the eye conceals. Charting Eliot's engagement with the science of optics and color perception, the analysis extends from the eye to vision (in parallel with the poetic movement from depictions of the physical eye to psychological symbols of inner vision). It considers Eliot's wavering between imagining the universal aspect of vision (he once wrote that "Speech varies, but our eyes are all the same"), and an awareness of the propensity for vision to play tricks with the specters and shadows of its own casting.
Dr Sarah Kennedy is a Research Fellow in English at Downing College, Cambridge, specializing in modernist and contemporary Anglophone poetry. Her research interests include metaphor, landscape, and literary selves.