This essay proposes, through an analysis of T. S. Eliot’s “The Dry Salvages,” a model for the study of the sea in modernism based on British modernism’s relationship with the contemporaneous idea that the sea was the essence of British history. “The Dry Salvages” rejects the view of the sea as embodying British history entertained elsewhere in Eliot’s poetry of this period, but it continues to envision Britain as inherently caught up in the new vision it elaborates of oceanic history as an ongoing calamitous process that is nevertheless essential to historical thinking as such. The poem develops this new vision by both suppressing and drawing on Black Atlantic historical experience. As it undertakes this oceanic historical reconceptualization, “The Dry Salvages” demonstrates how, in British modernism, thinking about the sea and thinking about history are intrinsically interconnected.

You do not currently have access to this content.