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image taken from All Ireland's Bard
W. B. Yeats
(1865 -1939)

Ideology and Literary Form: W.B. Yeats
  Central idea of the chapter: the development of 'organicist' concepts of society from Romantic humanist to modernist. 
  section on Charles Dickens
  before this section: a section on T. S. Eliot 
Eliot replaces liberal humanism with classicism, which is defined as "a higher, corporate ideological formation, defined by the surrender of 'personality' to order, reason, authority and tradition."  (146)
I. Contradictions, and self-dislocation, in Yeats' aristocratic Romanticism (his "cultural nationalism"): 
He identifies himself with "The idealised cavalier, ceremonious lineage of the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy." 
<--> but he is by birth a protestant bourgeois. 
<--> also, he rejects the nationalist movement of his time: the Land League.   --> doubly dislocated with Irish society. 
2. embodiments of this contradiction: 
  1. Maud Gonne "for Yeats at once symbol of Ireland's eternal beauty and rancorous political demogogue."
  2. "Easter 1916": 

  3. "I have met them at close of day 
    Coming with vivid faces 
    From counter or desk among grey 
    Eighteen-century houses.  
    I have passed with a nod of the head 
    Or polite meaningless words, 
    . .  .
    Being certain that they and I 
    But lived where motley is worn: 
    All changed, changed utterly: 
    A terrible beauty is born."
    (different from Yeats' views on Irish nationalism in the poems "September 1913":
    WHAT need you, being come to sense,                                                                   
    But fumble in a greasy till
    And add the halfpence to the pence
    And prayer to shivering prayer, until
    You have dried the marrow from the bone;
    For men were born to pray and save:
    Romantic Ireland's dead and gone,
    It's with O'Leary in the grave."
3. Consequences on literary forms: the use of masks; his move to common language and claim of central position
4. similar to Blake and Milton in attempting to construct "cosmic" symbologies, which, in mythologising bourgeois revolution, can assess its historical limitations from the visionary vantage-point of an absolute idealism
e.g. "The Second Coming"; "Leda and the Swan"
5. historical consequence: his support of fascism

note: Ascendancy: 
1. a secret society founded in Northern Ireland in 1795 to maintain the political and religious ascendancy of Protestantism. 2. A Protestant Irishman. (The American Heritage)
Work Cited
           Eagleton, Terry. "Ideology and Literary Form: W.B. Yeats." Criticism and Ideology: A Study in
           Marxist Literary Theory. London: Verso, 1976. 151-54.

Relevant links
Bio: Guided Reading:
  • "The Second Coming "    (the text and illustrations; from Fu Jen English Literature databank)

  • "Second Coming" [Reading Guide]

    General website on Yeats and Irish Culture:

  • William Butler Yeats Page : Good page with lots of links for more information.
  • Harps and Pepperpots. Irish Sites and links focused on mythology, literature, and poetry
  • Nathan Rose's Yeats Web Page. This site offers some Yeats links, "The Visible Yeats" project with scanned images of places and objects mentioned in Yeats's work and The Audible Yeats.
  • Essays Advanced or organization
  • Critically Yeats: "'concentrate[s] more on critical material and useful organizations than on text files of Yeats's work.''
  • W.B. Yeats Society of NY: a site with many Yeats-related links
  • E-Text:
  • Collected Poems of W.B. Yeats
  • Bartleby

  • A brief biography