Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-mrcq8 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-27T11:37:33.056Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

Chapter 6 - Yeats With Lacan: Toward the Real Modernism

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 June 2023

Get access

Summary

The second volume of R. F. Foster's biography, W.B. Yeats: A Life: The Arch-Poet, 1915-1939 (the first volume was the award-winning The Apprentice Mage) clearly completes a major achievement in literary biography every bit as masterful and illuminating as Richard Ellmann's life of James Joyce. Despite this obvious achievement, however, I come away from finishing my reading of it disturbed. What disturbs me is not the usual kind of complaint about literary biography, that the biographer has poured so many facts into his text the writer's work has been overwhelmed by the contexts of history and personal life.

Foster has already demonstrated brilliantly in the first volume, and he continues the demonstration here, that he can marshal all the facts and place the work in context and still do justice to its large formal structures and major themes. Although close textual analysis of a specialized kind is apparently not Foster's forte, for purposes of literary biography it is not really necessary, and in fact would just get in the way, stopping the onward dynamic thrust of the story he has to tell.

Basically, that story is how the 52-year-old W. B. Yeats (to whom Foster consistently refers as WBY, for short), on marrying the 24-year-old Georgie Hyde Lees in October 1917 finds not only an erotic and domestic partner, willing to bear him children and run his everyday life more efficiently and sympathetically than anyone else ever could. But he also finds, for the first decade of their marriage at least, an occult muse whose automatic writing, dream-visions and oracular medium-like trances give him, as the spiritual Instructors later claims, “metaphors for poetry,” not to mention the most sustained and successful sexual relationship in his life. Indeed, she gives him, as Foster shows, metaphors for the experience of poetic inspiration and visionary eroticism so powerful and original, whatever their traditional sources, that it could rightly be said that if any person (other than Yeats himself) remakes this once minor figure into the major poet to write English in the last century, it is certainly she.

But it is not, of course, Foster's magisterial rehearsal of this familiar story that disturbs me. Nor it is that Foster writes dismissively of Yeats's occult beliefs, for he does not.

Type
Chapter
Information
Yeats and Revisionism
A Half Century of the Dancer and the Dance
, pp. 105 - 114
Publisher: Anthem Press
Print publication year: 2022

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×