"A deeply intelligent study. . . . Scandalously entertammg. Cullingford scrupulously traces the intricate power relations between men and women both as they appear in Yeats's poems and as they were being played out in the Ireland in which he lived and wrote."—The Women's Review of Books
"Brilliant readings of major texts. . . . A hard act for the others to follow, and may well stand in the fullness of time as the most comprehensive statement of the latest revolution in Yeats studies."—Irish Press
In this, the first sustained feminist analysis of Yeats, Elizabeth Butler Cullingford resituates his love poems in their cultural and historical context. Yeats himself said that when he started to write verse, “no matter how I begin, it becomes love poetry.” Cullingford argues that the politics of sexuality are at the heart of his creative enterprise. From the early lyrics prompted by his frustrated love for Maud
Gonne through later works such as “Leda and the Swan,” “Among School Children,” and the Crazy Jane sequence, she traces the complex intersections between history, aesthetics, and desire.
Cullingford shows how women’s demand for emancipation brought pressure to bear on the conventions of love poetry, which idealize woman as an aesthetic object; and how Yeats’s revision of
these formal conventions modifies his idea of the Irish nation, which has traditionally been represented as female. Yeats described himself as “a man of my time, through my poetical faculty living its history”: his love poetry bears the impress of the shifting balance of sexual power and the struggle to define a postcolonial Irish identity.
Elizabeth Butler Cullingford, associate professor of English at the University of Texas, Austin, is the author of Yeats, Ireland, and Fascism.
6 x 9, 348 pages, 8 black and white illustrations