Students, faculty celebrate 100-year anniversary of T.S. Eliot poem

Eastern Michigan University’s Halle Library room G03 was filled to its maximum Friday afternoon with students and faculty to celebrate the 100-year anniversary of T.S. Eliot’s poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”

The event was co-sponsored by the Honors College, English department and Journal of Narrative Theory.

The idea for a celebration came from professor of literature Elizabeth Daumer, who is a fan of T.S. Eliot’s work and of his fictional character, Alfred Prufrock.

Daumer provided the audience with a background on T.S. Eliot where she talked about when the poet published the poem, where he wrote it and studied for graduate school, and his inspiration for the poem.

After Daumer’s introduction of Eliot, professor of interpretation/performance studies, Anita Rich came to announce a stage reading of the poem adapted by her and performed by four students playing Inertia, Desire and the Chorus of Women, the persona of Alfred Prufrock.

The poem came to life by the performers who used physical movements and individual break downs of each of the personas as written to represent Prufock.

Robin Lucy, Professor of Literature, thought the stage reading was great as to experience the poem first hand.

“It was very creative and innovative.”

Professor of Literature, Craig Dionne, a Shakespeare expert, gave a lecture on Eliot’s use of the character Hamlet in the poem next.

Dionne pointed out the different reasons Eliot has used Hamlet such as Eliot portraying Hamlet as being “his problems” and using Hamlet’s tragedy as his aesthetic.

Another perspective of Eliot’s poem came from Professor of Philosophy, Laura McMahon on the representation of time from the French philosopher, Henri Bergson and how the concept was influential for Eliot especially for the quote, “do I dare disturb the universe?”

McMahon provided a PowerPoint where the audience could experience photos and videos tied in with Bergson’s argument on space and time. There was a picture of a clock representing how we conceive time, a video of a ticking clock where the audience listened for rhythm repetition, and a picture of Joseph Butch Rovan’s “Chrono-photography of dancer Ami Shulman walking” which showed space and time and confusion of reality.

Graduate student in Creative Writing, David Boeving discussed his student’s responses to Eliot’s poem and Prufrock as a Literacy Narrative. He explained the key terms of the poem such as it being a literacy memoir, metanoia, paranoia, and a rhetorical situation. One of his student’s responses he read related that to the poem was that the poem was a “warning against procrastination” which the audience laughed and enjoyed.

Last were students Kayla Chenault and Lee Schwinghamer of Creative Writing who mapped the poem for the audience. Chenault used a blog to show the places where Eliot went and the places nearby in Barnet, the home of Eliot in London. The places are thought to have given potential for his inspiration of the poem. Some of the places mentioned was Raven Cross Gardens which inspired the thought of “disturbing the universe” based from a fence of the garden by a wealthy landowner, an estate of women where Eliot had thought he is separate from, and Happy Green, a park he lived closed by which said was seen as a spot of battle during WWI and said how war was a point in the poem.

Schwinghamer had a book collage that showed an internal Prufrock where it captured his thought process through images. The images were taken from a 1920’s library encyclopedia, DC Comics, manga, a National Geographic magazine and many more.

The event ended with a lively conversation by the audience on the lectures and performances such as raising questions about how old Prufrock was and a discussion on the persona of Prufrock performed.

“You can interpret the poem in many ways,” said Daumer.

Yvonne Stevens, a senior creative writing major who came for class thought the event was very informative.

“It had great insights to the poem and Eliot himself.”

You can read the poem, “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” on the Poetry Foundation’s website at

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