Re: The Yale Lecture Series On Yeats

 

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The professors who treat Yeats as a saint do a much better job of turning people off him than any reductivist critic of the canon ever could. By reducing him to a more of a deity than any god, one loses sight the questions his work asks, the turmoils of the soul he struggled with, and the evolving meanings of his stances in regards to class and culture. Also, one loses his relationship to the word: the English language, what he did with beat, scansion, meter, and inflection.

The fact that so much attention was paid( in the lectures) to the horrific Swan poem and his maddening inability to let Maude Gonne go (plus the snickering the professor had in regards to the subject matter) made the discussions feel less like a commune of ideas, and more a crass Ivy League social. The young student who doesn’t know of Yeats work could easily come away from them thinking him to be an irish Tucker Max. And by god, if one wanted to make the case that Yeats wasn’t completely reprehensible, then teach about his collaborations with Lady Gregory! Yeats was often in his different Id’s and when he was in a better Id, he could be more evolved than his rages. But by defending his rages so easily, those times when he went off the rails of human progress, the professor makes them the center of the discussion about Yeats, the man; and he does so more than any one who thinks one shouldn’t read him because he was a problematic white man.

Eliot once said Yeats had the longest period of development than any poet that ever lived. In that development are some dark, ugly outbursts. Also in them are some of the most complex explorations of folklore written in one of the most gorgeous styles in the history of the English language. Teach them. Teach all of them. Put them on the table and allow people to process every aesthetic. Have discussions on what an intellectual can take from him and what can throw away. But if professor at the helm of  The Yale Lecture Series On Yeats  is going to teach him as a cocksman-dork god, then he might as well not teach him at all and just conduct service.

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