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William Butler Yeats

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William Butler Yeats

  1. 1. William Butler Yeats<br />1865-1939<br />
  2. 2. Biography<br />Born in Dublin, Anglo-Irish family<br />Fascinated by Irish mythology and the occult<br />Spiritual by nature, but couldn’t accept Christian dogma<br />Caught up in the rise of the “Fenians”, 1890’s nationalism and the demand for Irish home rule<br />1889 met Maud Gonne<br />heiress and nationalist<br />Became infatuated with her<br />Proposed several times, but was refused<br />She married another revolutionary <br />1908 began an affair with her<br />
  3. 3. Bio - continued<br />1916 finally marries at age 51<br />Met wife in his occult clubs<br />She was an “spirit” or “automatic” writer<br />Marriage was successful<br />2 children<br />1922-1928 a senator in the Irish Free State<br />
  4. 4. Intro<br />Adopts many “masks” and approaches<br />radical nationalist<br />classical liberal<br />reactionary conservative and <br />millenarian nihilist<br />The gyre:<br />Two opposing wheels set in motion<br />Governing creation<br />Cyclical theory of existence:<br />All this has happened before, all this will happen again<br />his work is varied, contradictory<br />Post-colonial writer<br />effects of British empire/colonization on literary production.<br />Nationalism, anti-nationalism, the creation of a national identity<br />Rebellion, revolution, resistance to colonization<br />vacillating and ambivalent attitudes towards the colonizer<br />hybridity<br />
  5. 5. Art/Politics<br />Yeats proposes<br />A connection between art and politics that his writing brings to mind<br />In “Man and the Echo,” for example, Yeats asks:<br /> “Did that play of mine send out / Certain men the English shot?” (lines 11-12). <br />The play, Cathleen niHoulihan, co-authored by Yeats with Lady Gregory, may have helped mobilize the revolutionaries who participated in the Easter Rising of 1916. <br />draws attention to the political power of his own writing also brings up questions about the effect of art on politics in general.<br />
  6. 6. Art/Politics<br />Literature in this sense is not merely decorative or confined to rarefied academic circles, <br />something with the potential to touch and influence events in the real world. <br />helped to shape attitudes, however, <br />also tells us much about existing attitudes, <br />offers significant insights into Irish culture and history. <br />conflicted literary responses to this history<br />
  7. 7. “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”<br />Themes: <br />Longing for an idealized pastoral Ireland; <br />imagining rural self-reliance and escape from urban desolation<br />mythologizing and constructing an independent, non-British Ireland.<br />
  8. 8. “The Lake Isle of Innisfree”<br />Gives some sense of his early Romantic influences<br />reveals Yeats as Irish nation-builder and myth-maker<br />How does he imagine a free Ireland here?<br />parallels between the speaker’s intention to “live alone” (line 4) and plant his “Nine bean-rows” (line 3), and a self-sufficient Ireland.<br />
  9. 9. Innisfree<br />The island’s name <br />notions of hybridity and nationalism?<br />Contradictory?<br />Innisfree is literally a “free island,” <br />real location in the west of Ireland<br />free from British rule<br />also a hybrid word, combining English with Gaelic, <br />How the two cultures are intertwined. <br />Yeats made a conscious decision not to use the Gaelic spelling. <br />mythologizing an idyllic Ireland, <br />this is the “real” Ireland, not the streets of Dublin or elsewhere. <br />represents the life (the heart), the center, of Ireland, and as such becomes a national symbol.<br />constructing a national identity separate from British identity.<br />
  10. 10. “Easter 1916”<br />Easter rising in Ireland 1916<br />An attempt to end British rule in Ireland<br />Irish republican forces seize key locations in Dublin<br />Put down by the British in a matter of days<br />Leaders arrested, high ranking ones executed<br />
  11. 11. “Easter 1916”<br />Ambivalent tone<br />Did not please some of his friends<br />fluctuating view of the Irish revolutionaries who carried out the rebellion.<br />Look for indication of class distinction<br />sincere respect<br />also some disparaging remarks<br />cannot be entirely erased by recognition of the rebels’ martyrdom<br />
  12. 12. “Easter 1916”<br />Too long a sacrifice / Can make a stone of the heart” <br />admires the commitment of the revolutionaries<br />questions their tactics and their judgment. <br />Believes that the English government may eventually grant the Irish their independence<br />asks: “Was it needless death after all? For England may keep faith” (lines 67-68).<br />Moreover, he wonders: “what if excess of love / Bewildered [the slain nationalists] till they died?” (lines 72-73). <br />By the final lines, the refrain: all “changed, changed utterly: / A terrible beauty is born” (lines 79-80)<br />What is “born” here? What does Yeats think of Ireland’s future and why?<br />
  13. 13. “Second Coming”<br />Themes:<br />One historical epoch is ending:—in chaos<br />while another epoch—unknown and potentially frightening—is being born.<br />Key Passages:<br />“The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold,” lines 2-3; <br />“A shape with lion body and the head of a man, / A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun, / Is moving its slow thighs,” lines 14-16<br /> “And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, / Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?” lines 21-22.<br />
  14. 14. “Second Coming”<br />presents an explosive vision of the coming era.<br />historical birth <br />catastrophic proportions <br />the speaker yields to his own fevered imaginings<br />What is this beast? <br />Why does it appear after “twenty centuries of stony sleep”?<br />Why is the new era imagined as half man, half beast?<br />
  15. 15. “Second Coming”<br />turns Christian rhetoric against itself<br />In Christian terms:<br />the Second Coming is the end of the world when all are judged and sent to their respective fates.<br />Yeats’s scenario:<br />the Christian era is not the entire or most significant aspect of history;<br />it is dismissed as merely “twenty centuries of stony sleep” (line 19)<br />about to be replaced by another historical epoch<br />disturbing, coarse, and fragmented, but perhaps just as long-lived as the former.<br />
  16. 16. “Second Coming”<br />the falcon and the falconer <br />relationship to the disintegrating center :<br />“The falcon cannot hear the falconer; / Things fall apart<br /> the centre cannot hold” [lines 2-3]). <br />What do the “falcon” and “falconer” represent?<br /> Christ and the modern era? <br />A more generalized concept of a strong leader and his public? <br />something more abstract?<br />Yeats’s politics were ambivalent at this point:<br />anti-democratic/pro-fascist tendencies<br />speaker is worried about the loss of order in the world<br />disorder growing out of the disturbances of war and revolution<br />

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