What ultimately lasts in writing is anything with aesthetics. T.S. Eliot and Virginia Woolf agree that there are aesthetic values in writings. They have similar backgrounds regarding knowledge in English literary tradition that they are able to draw from, but their definitions of aesthetics seem to collide head on which creates the problem among these two writers.
T.S Eliot has a firm view on aesthetic values. He relies heavily on the father tongues of Greek and Latin that was known by those who could read in the Middle Ages as well as the great writers of his time. According to Eliot people with knowledge in this father tongue were the educated as well as the upper class. Also it was mostly men that were familiar with the father tongue because women did not gain the privilege to be educated until modern times. Any women who did have knowledge in the father tongue had to do so secretly. Eliot also predetermines that we know the great writers of his time at that were are familiar with English literary tradition. In the essay Tradition and the Individual Talent, Eliot says, " … the historical sense compels a man to write not merely with his own generation in his bones, but with a feeling that the whole of the literature of his own country has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order." He mostly talks to the educated male and beauty for him is found in these great writers of his time. He also say’s, " In a peculiar sense he will be aware also that he must inevitably be judged by the standards of the past. I say judged, not amputated, by them; not judged to be good as, or worse or better than, the dead; and certainly not judged by the canons of dead critics. It is a judgment, a comparison, in which two things are measured by each other."
Virginia Woolf, on the other hand, does not have a set of defined criteria as Eliot does to define aesthetic values. Woolf, unlike Eliot, is interested in the mother tongue. This was the source of Woolf’s culture, and she learned it from living it. This was the language spoken by the common people during the time of Chaucer. These common people were not the elite by any means most all were uneducated and some could not even read, so they relied heavily on the oral tradition on a daily basis. In an oral tradition the person who is telling the story becomes of great value to the listeners because they keep tradition alive and they are the only means of hearing it. In the essay Anon Woolf says, " Someone heard the song and remembered it for it was later written down, beautifully on parchment. Thus the singer had his audience, but the audience was so little interested in his name that he never thought to give it." This is referring to the oral tradition that Woolf emphasizes immensely. It refers to the different storytellers that were not concerned about stamping a name to their stories, but by keeping traditions alive.
So by looking back it is apparent that Eliot and Woolf have different viewpoints. They rely heavily on two different tongues, and communicate with two types of classes the elite, and the common people.
The father tongue was centered on texts, and Eliot believes that the written work itself is enough to show greatness. Eliot say’s, " His significance, his appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead. I mean this as a principle of aesthetic, nor merely historical, criticism." He feels that the written words have value and not the person who wrote them. We know that Eliot focused on the father tongue and males wrote most works in that tongue. So in order for something to have value it must fit into a pre-defined male tradition of great works.
Woolf sees aesthetic value in people who produce the written work as well as the works themselves. The difference between her and Eliot’s vision of aesthetics is that she acknowledges the writers and Eliot only sees the work itself. When the