Making the Void Fruitful: Yeats as Spiritual Seeker and Petrarchan Lover

Making the Void Fruitful: Yeats as Spiritual Seeker and Petrarchan Lover Patrick J. Keane
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Keane is a superb reader, observant of detail, sensitive to form, and always alert to the complex conversation through which a writer like Yeats finds his place in a tradition.
Terence Diggory, Professor Emeritus of English, Skidmore College and author of
Yeats & American Poetry: The Tradition of the Self


Shedding fresh light on the life and work of William Butler Yeats—widely acclaimed as the major English-language poet of the twentieth century—this new study by leading scholar Patrick J. Keane questions established understandings of the Irish poet’s long fascination with the occult: a fixation that repelled literary contemporaries T.S. Eliot and W.H. Auden, but which enhanced Yeats’s vision of life and death.

Through close reading of selected poems, the first section of Making the Void Fruitful assesses Yeats’s spiritualised treatment of corporeal themes, exploring sex and eroticism as the expression of a duality inherent to his ontological and supernatural convictions. The power-producing tension in Yeats’s work is not only intellectual but emotional. At its vital centre is his Muse: the beautiful political firebrand, Maud Gonne, whose activist Republican politics he considered his one real rival. Through close engagement with the poems and plays she inspired, the second section explores Yeats’s complex relationship with Maud, an obsessive and unrequited love which he sublimated and transformed into the greatest body of Muse poetry since Petrarch, in whose tradition of spiritualized eroticism Yeats, perhaps the last of the great Romantics, was consciously writing.

Shaped by the conviction that no modern poet exceeded Yeats in animating the enduring themes of love and spirituality through poetry, this book emphasises the influence, of Blake, Nietzsche, and John Donne, on what Yeats called ‘the thinking of the body’. Grounded firmly in the textual materiality of Yeats’s oeuvre, this book will be of interest to researchers and students of W.B. Yeats, as well as to those in the fields of Anglophone literatures and cultures, and philosophy.


Making the Void Fruitful: Yeats as Spiritual Seeker and Petrarchan Lover
Patrick J. Keane | December 2021
270pp. | 3 colour illustrations | 6.14" x 9.21" (234 x 156 mm)
ISBN Paperback: 9781800643208
ISBN Hardback: 9781800643215
ISBN Digital (PDF): 9781800643222
ISBN Digital ebook (epub): 9781800643239
ISBN Digital ebook (mobi): 9781800643246
ISBN Digital ebook (XML): 9781800643253
DOI: 10.11647/OBP.0275
BIC subject codes: D (Literature and literary studies), DS (Literature: history and criticism), DSC (Literary studies: poetry & poets); BISAC: LIT000000 (LITERARY CRITICISM / General), LIT014000 (Literary criticism: Poetry), LIT004120 (Literary criticism: English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh).


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Contents

Abbreviations

Acknowledgments

Part One - W. B. Yeats as Spiritual Seeker

General Prologue: The Thinking of the Body Download
Patrick Keane

1. Introduction: Bodily Decrepitude and the Imagination Download
Patrick Keane

2. Hermeticism, Theosophy, Gnosticism Download
Patrick Keane

3. The Seeker Download
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4. The Byzantium Poems; Apocalypse in ‘The Secret Rose’ and ‘The Second Coming’ Download
Patrick Keane

5. Gnosis and Self-Redemption Download
Patrick Keane

6. Sex, Philosophy, and the Occult Download
Patrick Keane

7. Mountain Visions and Other Last Things Download
Patrick Keane

Part Two - Love’s Labyrinth: Yeats as Petrarchan Poet (The Maud Gonne Poems)

Preface to Part Two Download
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8. Poet and Muse Download
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9. Maud Gonne, and Yeats as Petrarchan Lover Download
Patrick Keane

10. The Poems: A Sampling Download
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11. Rose, Wind, and the Seven Woods Download
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12. Maud as Helen: The Green Helmet Poems Download
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13. Responsibilities and The Wild Swans at Coole Download
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14. ‘A Bronze Head’ and Beyond Download
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15. Thought Distracted: ‘Man and the Echo,’ ‘Politics,’ and Conclusion Download
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Eulogy: Harold Bloom (1930–2019) Download
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Select Bibliography

Index