This seminar will explore the work of W.B. Yeats and consider how he contributed to the development of a distinctly Irish modernism within the contexts of a wider modernist era in the early to mid-twentieth century. Reflecting on Yeats’s developing aesthetic sensibility, we will examine the long trajectory of his half-century poetic career as he moves from the romantic nationalism of the Celtic Twilight to the more rigorously modernist work of his later writing. We will look, too, at Yeats’s dramatic works and consider how his modernist sensibilities informed his sometimes controversial role in founding and developing the world-renowned Abbey Theatre.
Considering Yeats’s role as the central figure of the Irish Literary Revival, we will examine how the Revival can be seen as a modernist initiative and explore how the Revival also provokes very different modernist reactions by James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Elizabeth Bowen and others reacting to its perceived sentimentality and commodification of an Irish primitivism. This seminar will thus reflect on Yeats’s contributions to a wider European modernism while also distilling how Yeats helped spur the development of distinctive strands within Irish modernist aesthetics through his own work and through those who consciously diverge from his project.
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