Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2018

Degree Type

Masters Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



Committee Chair

Jonathan Barron

Committee Chair Department


Committee Member 2

Daniel Capper

Committee Member 2 Department

Philosophy and Religion

Committee Member 3

Martina Sciolino

Committee Member 3 Department



While pursuing his graduate studies at Harvard, T.S. Eliot put a year into deep study of the Yoga Sutras with renowned scholar James Haughton Woods. Yoga, defined in the Sutras as the practice of stopping “the fluctuations of the mind-stuff” (Patañjali 8), provides the possibility of hope and equanimity in Eliot’s poem The Waste Land (1922), which depicts a world seemingly devoid of meaning. Not only can the influence of the Yoga Sutras be seen in the poetic form, style, and voice of The Waste Land and in the explanatory notes to the poem provided by Eliot, but classical yoga philosophy, as articulated in Patañjali’s Sutras, also forms the basis of a yogic spiritual journey in the poem.

Delving deeply into how yoga philosophy likely inspired T.S. Eliot gives a foundation for a close reading of The Waste Land as a spiritual journey. By reading the poem in this way, we not only better acknowledge all of the religious ideas that Eliot wrapped into the text, but we can successfully solve what I call “the enigma problem” in Waste Land scholarship. The poem can be about fragmentation and still make sense. In fact, this way of reading draws out an overarching narrative and provides a new and flexible way to read the poem that is both coherent and hopeful.