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31:2, Book Reviews tianity could answer Yeats's fundamental need for "absolute serenity before death and destruction." After he repetitiously builds what is a spurious case at best for Yeats's adherence to a "religion of subjectivity," Bmnner dismisses such a philosophy as "painfully ridiculous," as an "extravagant absurdity." Bmnner argues that Yeats's declaration that "Man can embody tmth but he cannot know it" is "a sweeping reversal of the philosophic intent of his entire life." In Bmnner's view, once Yeats denied the religion of subjectivity, he accepted "the uncontrollable mystery that is God" and became convinced of "the reality of God as objective power." Bmnner concludes, "My strong feeling is that, given time, Yeats would increasingly have sought a formulation of experience which would not only include God, but perhaps even center on God." Even though Yeats did not have the time to do this, Bmnner argues that we should see the Christian faith and "the surrender to God's purpose" as "the ultimate alternative and the ultimate answer to Yeats's yearning for transcendent selfhood, for triumph in the midst of tragedy." Not surprisingly, the last dozen footnotes are to the Old Testament and the New Testament and he concludes by describing Yeats's poetry as "a guidepost toward our own realization of that Tmth which makes for freedom, that Reality which makes for life." Garratt's book occasionally underestimates Yeats in the course of an excellent analysis of modem Irish poetry; but unfortunately Bmnner's eccentric analysis of Yeats has nothing to offer. Mary Helen Thuente Indiana University-Purdue University at Fort Wayne YEATS AND DRAMA Heather C. Martin. W. B. Yeats: Metaphysician as Dramatist. Waterloo, Ontario: Wilfried Laurier University Press; Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1986. $25.00 The dramatic career of Yeats was an intriguing and complex one. It began with such plays as TAe Countess Cathleen and developed, under the influence of Lady Gregory, into nationalistic drama in such plays as Cathleen ni Hoolihan and the legendary Deirdre. Under the influence of Japanese Noh drama, Yeats later wrote Four Plays for Dancers, ritualistic plays using dance, music, and masks. Yeats also served for a time as Manager of the Abbey Theatre. Yet today the reputation of his drama is mixed (certainly nowhere nearly as uniformly highly regarded as his lyric poetry). The plays are produced infrequently outside academia. When done well, they are riveting and exciting, but they are perhaps now more often regarded for their poetry, for the quality of language and imagery Yeats brought to the dramatic situation. Heather Martin's new study is in this second tradition. And though the book is imperfect, it is certainly 226 31:2, Book Reviews not without merit. Its flaws are conceptual and theoretical, rather than factual or interpretive; its strengths lie in the critic's ability to offer penetrating insights into the specific issues and moments in the plays. This contradiction in qualities makes it difficult to recommend the book without a caveat: readers looking for discussion of particular aspects of the plays will be more rewarded than the general reader of Yeats or of his drama. Perhaps the most serious problem with the text is suggested by Martin's title. It indicates that she is interested in how Yeats the metaphysician functions as dramatist. It would be more accurate to reverse the terms, for Martin pays comparatively little attention to the plays as works of drama; rather, she uses the plays to defend her theses about Yeats's "metaphysics." While it is scarcely fruitful to argue that Yeats's plays may only be discussed in theatrical terms, it is fair to ask why she singles out the plays from which to derive Yeats's progress of the soul. In point of fact, she does not look exclusively at the plays; in many instances, she devotes considerable space to analyzing lyric poems to establish a point about Yeats's metaphysics, and then turns to examples from the plays. Again, it seems reasonable to ask why the scope of the study was not simply expanded to a metaphysics of all of Yeats's writings. As the plays were written concurrently with the...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 226-229
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
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