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May 1974

T. S. Eliot and The Waste Land: Psychopathological Antecedents and Transformations

Arch Gen Psychiatry. 1974;30(5):709-717. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.1974.01760110111015

T. S. Eliot's major poem, The Waste Land, is considered a profound expression for the sense of alienation and meaninglessness that many have found characteristic of the spirit of the modern era. The poem was written by Eliot after a series of personal crises that eventuated in exhaustion and depression and a brief period of psychotherapy. His illness can be characterized as a tranistory narcissistic regression with partial fragmentation and loss of ego dominance. Through the help of his psychiatrist, Roger Vittoz, a benign, supporting super-ego figure, and his collaborative alter-ego, Ezra Pound, with whom he formed a self-confirming, mirroring transference, Eliot was able to return to creative work and use the experience of his illness to add a new dimension to English literature.