Butler Journal of Undergraduate Research


T. S. Eliot’s poem “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” has often been read as a thoroughly cynical assessment of the modern individual and community. This totalizing portrayal misses the poem’s ability to serve as a foil to a more ideal community. If Eliot is so ill-disposed to the timid, fragile Prufrock and his shallow, ostentatious social network, then Eliot must believe in the essence of a better community. We may look to one of Eliot’s intellectual mentors, Josiah Royce, for his philosophy of community, which stands as an ideal inverse in relation to the Prufrockian community. After examining Royce’s thought and reviewing the scholarly dialogue on this topic, this article contrasts the inferior Prufrockian community with the Roycean community, its ideal counterpart, on their respective communication styles, quality of interpersonal relationships, and conceptions of selfhood. These comparisons elucidate Royce’s vision for social living and demonstrate how “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock” affirms the possibility for flourishing human community.