Vol. 11 (2022): Works and Traditions: Early Modern Encounters
Part Two - Case Studies

The Writer’s Oeuvre and the Scholar’s Oeuvre

Paul Eggert
Loyola University Chicago and University of New South Wales

Published 2022-03-24


  • Creative Writing,
  • The Oeuvre,
  • The Work,
  • Tradition,
  • T.S. Eliot

How to Cite

Eggert, P. (2022). The Writer’s Oeuvre and the Scholar’s Oeuvre. Journal of Early Modern Studies, 11, 203–227. https://doi.org/10.13128/jems-2279-7149-13430


The general argument is that the oeuvre-concept, along with the work-concept, both suitably refreshed, need to be more deliberately and self-consciously re-introduced into editorial and literary-critical study. A survey of several poets’ attitudes to their own body of writings, followed by the cases of some novelists, clears the ground for two sharply contrasting understandings of the oeuvre-concept to emerge: the writer’s self-memorialising oeuvre and the scholar’s broader oeuvre. They expose the evasiveness of T.S. Eliot’s famous appeal to tradition (in his essay ‘Tradition and the Individual Talent’ of 1919). This potentially competing concept of Eliot’s depends, it is argued, on an idealism that severs its contact with the material evidence and practices of creative writing. Eliot’s shifting attitude towards tradition is traced, and its historical attractions in its time are discussed.