Eliot and Beckett's Low Modernism: Humility and Humiliation

(Edinburgh University Press, 2021)


Humility and humiliation have an awkward, often unacknowledged intimacy. Humility may be a queenly, cardinal or monkish virtue, while humiliation points to an affective state at the extreme end of shame. Yet a shared etymology links the words to lowliness and, further down, to the earth. Like the terms in question, T. S. Eliot and Samuel Beckett share an imperfect likeness. Between them is a common interest in states of abjection, shame and suffering – and possible responses to such states. Tracing the relation between negative affect, ethics, and aesthetics, Eliot and Beckett’s Low Modernism demonstrates how these two major modernists recuperate the affinity between humility and humiliation – concepts whose definitions have largely been determined by philosophy and theology.


Eliot and Beckett's Low Modernism: Humility and Humiliation by Rick de Villiers

"De Villiers's study is deeply impressive. It is highly original and erudite, yet engaging and, yes, humble." - Mike Marais