Yesterday saw the start of the thirty-fifth annual meeting of the T. S. Eliot Society, a most warm and engaging conference held among the world’s leading Eliot scholars and those like me who are simply students of Eliot (although I must say that my fellow students are far and away my intellectual and academic betters: nearly all of them have earned PhDs in Literature…or are doctoral candidates). I’m happily in St. Louis, Eliot’s boyhood hometown, to participate once again.
As in years past (I attended the conference in 2010 and 2012), I feel like a kid invited to watch a World Series game from the dugout of his favorite team: Wow! There’s the famous Professor So-and-So, whose book I so much admired, talking shop with the esteemed Doctor Such-and-Such, whose book I’m about to read!
The conference runs through tomorrow (Sunday) morning and includes the presentation of recent scholarly papers as well as animated discussion about them. What a joy to sit in among such a knowledgeable and gracious group…and learn and learn and learn.
Tonight we’ll dine at the home of a thoroughly charming and generous couple, who were founding members of the Society decades back. The conversation will continue warm and lively. And following conference tradition, the group of us will assemble around a grand piano after dinner, where our host will play and lead us in song…from Cole Porter to Stephen Foster to the Beatles!
Earnest conversation, tradition, and shades of music hall: Eliot would be pleased. Certainly, we are!
What an opportunity. What a blessing. So grateful.