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Scholarcast 55: Yeats, Revival and the Temporalities of Modernism

Gregory Castle


This lecture puts forward the idea that Yeats's Revivalism lies at the heart of his modernism rather than at the "pre-modernist" periphery of his early career. For Yeats, as for so many of his contemporaries, Revival was not a form of nostalgia, in which the past was cut off from experience; nor was it nostalgia in the sense of longing of a time that never was. Rather it was a deliberate attitude toward time, in which a "backward glance" brought the past into a present moment of critical reflection. To produce the past is not to revive (or reproduce) it as a living reality but to incorporate past times into our productions of the present, to knit or weave time as Yeats does in the early poems, when he "nests" verb tenses in a way that illustrates the "future perfect" structure of Revival temporality, in which the poet longs not for the past, but for "coming times." There's a self-corrective component to Yeats's Revivalism, that both makes up for misprision (misrecognition, misunderstanding, misrepresentation) and puts into play more "canny" versions of it—as when Yeats, in his late poems, turns to the Anglo-Irish, with the same "cold eye," the same corrective gaze that rooted out, even as it reinstated, his own misrecognitions of the Catholic Irish.

Gregory Castle

Gregory Castle is professor of British and Irish literature at Arizona State University. He has published Modernism and the Celtic Revival (Cambridge University Press 2001), Reading the Modernist Bildungsroman (University Press Florida 2006), A Guide to Literary Theory (Blackwell 2007), and The Literary Theory Handbook (Wiley-Blackwell 2013). He has numerous essays on Irish authors and is currently working on (or has recently finished) essays on Bram Stoker's Dracula, Wilde's American Tour of 1881, Yeats poetry, Irish Revivalism, Irish modernism and Assia Djebar's Algerian Quartet. His essay, "Coming of Age in the Age of Empire: Reading Joyce's Bildungsroman," first published in James Joyce Quarterly in 2003, was selected for republication in the Quarterly's 50th anniversary issue, Fall 2012. Recent and forthcoming projects include an edited volume for Cambridge, A History of the Modernist Novel, and a monograph, Modernism and the Temporalities of Irish Revival, 1878-1939. He has published poems in Jacaranda Review, Merge, Boyne Berries (IRE), Revival (IRE), Cránnog (IRE), Lake City Lights and Superstition Review. In 2010, he won 2nd prize in the 12th Francis Ledwidge International Poetry Award (Dublin, IRE). He launched the Fall 2012 issue of Boyne Berries, in Trim, Ireland, September 25, 2012.


The essay will appear in A History of Modernist Poetry, ed. Alex Davis and Lee Jenkins (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015).


Series edited by: Giulia Bruna and Catherine Wilsdon
General Editor: P.J. Mathews
Scholarcast original theme music by: Padhraic Egan, Michael Hussey and Sharon Hussey.
Recording, audio editing, photography, video and development by: John Matthews, Vincent Hoban, Seán O'Domhnaill, Brian Kelly & Ken Doyle at UCD Media Services.

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