This article challenges the longstanding critical assumption that the poems in W.B. Yeats’s Responsibilities (1914) offer a categorical rejection of modern consumer society. Although Yeats is clearly disdainful of middle-class culture and nostalgic for a pre-modern community unified by the arts, the poems, I argue, strategically exploit the logic of the modern marketplace. By looking at the poems in rhetorical terms, as cultural productions designed to convince people in the present to spend money on the proposed Hugh Lane Gallery of Modern Art, I suggest that Yeats exploits commercial logic in three specific ways: by associating mundane consumer exchange with hoarding, as if the true capitalist is a miser; by tapping into the modern advertising strategy of equating choice of purchases with self-worth; and by rendering the object for purchase in abstract terms, such that the “product,” again in good advertising fashion, always promises something more than it can deliver.


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pp. 1-18
Launched on MUSE
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