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Title: The spiring treadmill and the preposterous pig : the accommodation of science in the political, occult and poetic development of W.B. Yeats, 1885-1905
Author: Burton, Richard Edmund
Awarding Body: University of London
Current Institution: Royal Holloway, University of London
Date of Award: 1985
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Johnson defined metaphysical poetry as a violent yoking together of heterogeneous ideas. Such a process, I suggest, is developed in Yeats's work. The early desire to "hammer" his conflicting "thoughts into unity" bears fruit in the mature verse. The "thoughts long knitted into a single thought" of 'Coole Park, 1929' are echoed, for instance, by the overwhelming desire in 'The Tower' to make the "moon and sunlight seem/One inextricable beam". The argument continues, as in 'Dialogue of Self and Soul', say, or the seventh section of 'Vacillation', but it is played out against a long history of reconciliation. We remember the Irish airman who "balanced all, brought all to mind" in 1919. Clearly a prerequisite is a flexible attitude to Truth, and this thesis examines ways in which such flexibility is expressed in Yeats's occult and political theory, and in the development of his poetic. It begins with an introductory account of Yeats's early scientific reading, the deliberalizing implications of that material, and the debt to it of proto-fascist and, later, fascist theorists. The first chapter considers fascism generally, and examines aspects of Yeats's early work that seem to indicate the later politics. The second chapter returns to the nineteenth century intellectual climate - to the interaction of the new science and the established church, on the one hand, and the occult revival on the other. Yeats's occult development is considered against this background and shown to be empirical. Each step is dictated by a rationale that is aware of the fundamental importance of logic. To walk the narrow path between Grey Truth and Secret Rose, between science and spirituality, requires poise. Chapters four and five consider the nature of 'balance' and the evil of obsession in the early work, concentrating in particular on three poems Yeats was later to cast away 'Mosada', 'Time and the Witch Vivien' and 'The Seeker'. The thesis is concluded with a consideration of anarchy as the result of the perpetual balance of irreconcilables 'Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold' - and suggests ways in which the material presented might be used in a reassessment of Yeats's later work. Yeats's knowledge of science, coupled with his refusal to reject any aspect of the truth, however "grey", suggested a world-picture that nourished, and to some extent prefigured the later politics.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: English Literature