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Being NumerousPoetry and the Ground of Social Life$
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Oren Izenberg

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780691144832

Published to Princeton Scholarship Online: October 2017

DOI: 10.23943/princeton/9780691144832.001.0001

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White Thin Bone

White Thin Bone

Yeatsian Personhood

(p.40) Chapter One White Thin Bone
Being Numerous

Oren Izenberg

Princeton University Press

This chapter examines the philosophical origins and political urgencies of William Butler Yeats's demand for “perfection” and “completeness.” It begins with a discussion of Yeats's conception of extreme and paradoxical theories of poetic agency and why such an excessive account of poetic agency might have appeared necessary in his historical situation. It then considers Yeats's early and abiding commitment to the esoteric roots of symbolism and his late interest in eugenics, both of which addressed the local project of forging a counterfactual identity. It also shows how Yeats's poetry bridges the gap between the perfected Ireland he envisioned and the degraded one he conjured. The chapter concludes with an analysis of Yeats's explicit rebellion, not against his universalist notion of personhood, but against his own will to poetic mastery.

Keywords:   personhood, William Butler Yeats, perfection, completeness, poetic agency, symbolism, eugenics, counterfactual identity, poetry, poetic mastery

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