Envisioning Ireland: W. B. Yeats's Occult Nationalism (Reimagining Ireland)
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Although W. B. Yeats is one of the most over-theorised authors in the Irish canon, little attempt has been made to situate his occult works in the political context of early twentieth-century Ireland. By evaluating the two versions of A Vision, published in 1925 and 1937, this book provides a methodology for understanding the political and cultural impulses that informed Yeats’s engagement with the otherworld. The author suggests that the Yeatsian occult operates very firmly within the political parameters of Irish nationalism, often as a critique of the new Free State, or as an alternative way of mythologising and inaugurating a new nation state. The occult, far from being free of all political considerations, registers the poet’s shifting allegiances, from the Celticism of the 1890s to his disenchantment with modern Ireland in the Free State.
Through close readings of Yeats’s manuscripts and his primary and critical works, including a close assessment of the frequently neglected dramatic texts, the author seeks to force a rethinking of the critical reception of the Yeatsian occult through contemporary theoretical developments in postcolonialism, subjectivity, national identity and textual instability.
AV (B), p. 46. ‘A Secret Mystical Propaganda’: The Castle of Heroes 5 lawyer, the friend of Goldsmith and of Burke’9 and of course this relates to Yeats’s Anglo-Irish mythology: ‘I declare/ This winding, gyring, spiring treadmill of a stair is my ancestral stair;/ That Goldsmith and the Dean, Berkeley and Burke have travelled there.’10 In engaging with this mythology, the problem of terminology becomes more overt: why are the Anglo-Irish hyphenated, but not the Gaelic(-)Irish? As the
the text, between inside and outside, suggesting a textual correlation with 48 Forde, p. 16. 49 Genette, Paratexts, p. 406. Forging and Forgery: The ‘Giraldus’ Portrait in A Vision 95 Figure 2. National Library of Ireland MS 36, 264/1 Frontispiece. Sketch of Giraldus by Edmund Dulac. the hyphenated Cambro-Norman settler culture from which Giraldus originated. In fact, in a draft sketch of the ‘Giraldus’ portrait (Figure 2), Edmund Dulac seemingly conflates the Augustus John portrait of
in criminals and Negroes or people of African descent.’116 Notably, the attribution was common to the native Irish also: [S]imian Paddy … longed to use physical force to free his country from British rule. Espousing an Irish Republic wholly separate from Great Britain, this truly ‘dangerous’ creature looked like a cross between a monstrous ape and primitive man owing to his high and hairy upper lip or muzzle, concave nose, low facial angle, and sharp teeth … The unforgettable image of simian
very firmly within the political parameters of Irish nationalism, often as a critique of the new Free State, or as an alternative way of mythologising and inaugurating a new nation state. The occult, far from being free of all political considerations, registers the poet’s shifting allegiances, from the Celticism of the 1890s to his disenchantment with modern Ireland in the Free State. REIR re i imagining land VOLU ME 1 0 Claire Nally Envisioning Ireland W. B. Y e at s ’ s O cc u lt N at i
matter of debate. See O’Casey, Three Dublin Plays, introduction, p. viii: one contemporary commentator suggested that ‘as a realist he [O’Casey] is an impostor … His dialogue is a series of word-poems in dialect; his plots are disappearing and giving place to a form of undisguised expressionism.’ In part, this must account for Yeats’s support of the playwright. Pilkington, p. 37. See especially Yeats, ‘The Freedom of the Theatre’ (United Irishman, 1 November 1902), UPII, pp. 295–9. 178