Exploring the dimensions of urban ecology and hope in T.S. Eliot’s Wasteland: Image-making in Kent


T. S. Eliot has been one of the most prominent of western scholars in terms of integrating ideas from Indian philosophy into his literary work. Produced during the 1920s, Eliot’s magnum opus, The Waste Land employs references from the Hindu Upanishads, Buddhism and the western philosophy, specifically in the final section of the poem ‘What the Thunder said’. (Ramanujam, 2018)

The aim of this research is to explore The Waste Land’s symbolic and metaphorical commentary on human existence within the context of the many layers of hope and urban transformation in the ecosystem of Margate through the visual arts as the method of inquiry. Several artists have been inspired by Eliot’s writing, one such artist being R.B. Kitaj who describes his visual interpretation of The Waste Land as a “waste-like middle ground and the pools of stagnant water reflecting Eliot’s imagery of infertility and the difficulty of renewal”. (Sperling, 2018) Photography has been employed to capture images of Margate landscapes and cityscapes. The Sanskrit excerpts from The Waste Land have been integrated into the photographs through digital photomanipulation techniques. This process conceptually draws upon adapting the literary content into image-making practice by considering the theories of understanding photography wherein memory and imagination intersect. (Treadaway, 2009)

In The Waste Land, Sanskrit texts have been used by Eliot as conceptual frameworks to juxtapose various ideas of the human condition with the effects of industrialization. “In suggesting that ecological crises accompany these other problems of early twentieth-century modernity, Eliot pushes us to consider the analogies between compromised environmental exteriors and a complex range of similarly polluted interior states.” (McIntire, 2015)

“Ganga was sunken, and the limp leaves

Waited for rain, while the black clouds

Gathered far distant, over Himavant.

The jungle crouched, humped in silence.

Then spoke the thunder


Datta: what have we given?

My friend, blood shaking my heart

The awful daring of a moment’s surrender

Which an age of prudence can never retract…”

A section of the poem was written in Margate, a seaside town of Kent in the South East of England.

‘On Margate Sands / I can connect / Nothing with nothing’

As part of the urban regeneration plan, Margate has seen several new commercial enterprises, resorts, reopening of Dreamland amusement park, and museums such as the Turner Contemporary museum and gallery space. This project maps the changing language of the ‘exchanges’ between the environment and the social and cultural transformations taking place in Margate, thus presenting a new perspective on contemporary understanding of The Waste Land.

Keywords: T.S.Eliot, The Waste Land, Photography, ecological transformation, digital photo-manipulation


1. Ramanujam T.C.A., (2018, October 4). How Indian Thought Influenced T.S.Eliot. The Hindu. Retrieved from

2. Sperling, M. (2018, February 10). ‘Tell Me Who Kandinsky Is’: T.S.Eliot Among The Artists. Apollo Magazine. Retrieved from

3. Treadaway, Dr. (2009). Materiality, Memory and Imagination: Using Empathy to Research Creativity. Leonardo. 42. 10.1162/leon.2009.42.3.231.

4. McIntire, G. (2015). The Waste Land as ecocritique. 10.1017/CBO9781107279612.013.

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