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BOOK REVIEWS be no "contrived plot." Rather, Shaw provides "significant action" in a Chekhovian or organic sense. Dietrich bolsters his positions by examining various manuscript revisions, particularly those in Immaturity. This, then, is a sagacious introduction for those who have not read Shaw's novels. Whether Dietrich has proved conclusively that the novels embody cathartic, psychic autobiography is a more contentious issue which will doubtless stimulate some debate. J. P. Wearing ________________ University of Arizona Essays on Yeats Jonathan Allison, ed. Yeats's Political Identities: Selected Essays. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996. viii + 352 pp. $47.50 THIS COLLECTION of eighteen essays about Yeats written over the last thirty years concerns what is most central to Yeats criticism during that period: one cannot but surrender to the greatness of the verse, but one should not surrender to what that verse celebrates. We don't, but still we may find ourselves striking attitudes like those of Yeats—that capitalism is fundamentally degrading of both high and popular culture, or that all ordinary political discussion of equality with our fellow citizens is contemptible. An attitude of antithetical scorn for modern life can have its attractions to the contemporary intellectual, as for the last Romantic. And this can prove frightening and troubling for the contemporary critic, unleashing waves of love and anger for the poet and the poems. All this makes for a fierce lovers' quarrel, and a family quarrel too, among Yeats's readers. The current cycle of debate, as represented in this collection, began with the Yeats Centennial in 1965, when Conor Cruise O'Brien was asked by A. Norman Jeffares and K. G. W Cross to contribute to another collection of essays on the poet. By 1965, a largely American and New Critical scholarly effort had established Yeats as the great late Romantic or modern poet of this century, and In Excited Reverie was doubtless meant to be celebratory. But O'Brien submitted a blistering seventypage investigation of the poet's engagements in politics over the course of his life, "Passion and Cunning," which, after some disturbingly well-informed analyses of particular episodes, ended with the hair-raising suggestion that had Yeats lived and the Nazis won, the poet might have served as an ornament of a collaborationist regime in England. Terence de Veré White said he was so angry that the print swam before 503 ELT 40:4 1997 his eyes, and he ended up writing a refutation of things that O'Brien had not actually said—a phenomenon that sometimes continues. O'Brien never said that Yeats is anything less than a great poet, but he felt obligated to make a rational defense against the irrational attractions of (some of) the poems, especially those that praise race, blood, and violence, and those that celebrate the revolutionary. There is a national difference among critics regarding Yeats's politics. Allison's twenty-two-page introduction gives a detailed brief history of reception (as well as short introductions to the essays that follow), and one can see that the question of Yeats's fascism was very much on the minds of English readers in particular at the time of his death; neither Orwell nor D. S. Savage had any time for a poet "more than half fascist." After the war, in the Southern Review the American New Critics made Yeats over into an individualist who celebrated human freedom, and whose deeply symbolic art gave expression to universal values; now and again, they showed a Southerner's disinclination to criticize Yeats's hatred of cities, industrialism, equality, socialism, and restraint on the rights of propertied individuals. By the late sixties, Irish critics began to work out their own relation to Yeats (and to 1916) in the context of developing Troubles in the North of Ireland. Allison has chosen well among Irish contributors: Seamus Deane, DecÃ-an Kiberd, Richard Kearney, Augustine Martin, Maurice Harmon Terence Brown, Edna Longley, Roy Foster, Seamus Heaney, and David Lloyd. The emotional quality of these scholarly essays is extraordinary: they are emotional in their relation to Yeats, as to a father of great legacy recently bereaved, and they are emotional in their relation to one another...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 503-507
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
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