Contemporary scholarship about W.B. Yeats (1865-1939) is increasingly clear about the implications of his being a nationalist from a Protestant background. He always felt a degree of distance from his Catholic compatriots, while at the same time believing that his own background offered him relative freedom to interpret Ireland’s pre-Christian traditions and mythology. This study shows how Yeats moved from passionate identification with the idea of Ireland in his early work, through a period in which he re-emphasizes his Anglo-Irish inheritance and its difference from that of Catholics, to a new sense of unity in his later work, founded on the belief that the Gaelic and the Anglo-Irish aristocracies were fundamentally alike. Effects of indecision and provisionality in the writing are intimately bound up with this ambivalent sense of identity, as are aesthetic doctrines such as that of the Mask. In line with recent scholarship, this study also treats Yeats’ occult researches as important for understanding the poetry, and as possessing political significance. Other topics addressed include the concept of the nation, representations of gender, and Orientalism, as well as those questions of style and form which underlie the extraordinary esteem in which Yeats’ poetry is still held by poets and readers of the twenty-first century.
Edward Larrissy is Emeritus Professor of Poetry in the Queen’s University of Belfast, where he chairs the Advisory Board of the Seamus Heaney Centre for Poetry. His published works include Yeats the Poet: The Measures of Difference (1994), Blake and Modern Literature (2006), and The Blind and Blindness in Literature of the Romantic Period (2007). He has also edited, among other things, W.B. Yeats: Visions and Revisions (2010), and The First Yeats: Poems by W.B. Yeats 1889-1899 (2010).
2nd Revised edition
216 × 138 mm
February 20, 2015
Writers and their Work