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Wheeler, R.P. (1975). Recent Books in Review: Yeats. Am. Imago, 32(3):309-314.

(1975). American Imago, 32(3):309-314

Recent Books in Review: Yeats

Review by:
Richard P. Wheeler

Brenda Webster succinctly states the broad outlines of her view of Yeats's development as a writer in the Introduction, and returns to this large pattern in the brief conclusion. Six chapters study various phases of Yeats's work, grouped by chronology and genre: the early writings through John Sherman and Dhoya (Ch. 1); the early and late plays (Chs. 2 and 4); a group of stories, poems, and essays, mostly written before Yeat's marriage in 1917 (Ch. 3); A Vision and such closely related poems as “The Double Vision of Michael Robartes” and the “Supernatural Songs” (Ch. 5); and three late poems, “A Dialogue of Self and Soul,” “Sailing to Byzantium,” and “Byzantium” (Ch. 6). Within the extraordinary changes that characterize the maturing Yeat's relations to himself, to others, and to his art, Webster seeks continuities at the level of unconscious mental life. Enduring desires, persisting infantile patterns of thought, and self-perpetuating fantasies are traced to their probable origins in Yeats's childhood, and charted as they are brought into new relation to his later experience and to his evolving art.

Webster states that her “major aim … is to follow as closely as possible the track of the creative process in Yeats's work, beginning with the germs embedded in fantasy and daydream.” In the earlier work, according to Webster, Yeats turns away from threatening materials in his life and toward an idealized world of fairyland heroics. This mythicized world often celebrates an incestuous quest within a set of masochistic fantasies which demand the ultimate destruction of the hero. The important turning of Yeats's art toward reality goes with a new relation for Yeats to conflict in himself and in his regard for the powerful impulses of his body.

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