Date of Award

Fall 2001

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)




This dissertation argues that W. B. Yeats' Collected Poems critique codes and strategies Christian sects used to cultivate allegiance to ideological and political positions. Despite appearing "Romantic" and aloof from cultural controversies, Yeats' poems mimic core religious assumptions--ie., search for origins, the cultivation of piety and obedience, and the creation of dominant political and religious unity throughout Ireland--and expose ways that Christian authority suppresses contentious voices and histories teeming beneath Yeats' culture. This approach to the Collected Poems analyses some of the dominant religious and political voices of Yeats' milieu and proposes ways that personae imitate, question, and subvert those who champion sectarian allegiance and a singular political view. Celebrating cacophony of language and not Romantic apotheosis of images, personae contrast ways that Christian sects used religion to reinforce political authority with the strategies Yeats' poems use to "mimic" this power. While sectarian hagiographers shaped St. Patrick into images of piety and independence, for example, some of Yeats' personae in Supernatural Songs undermine whether authoritative "origins" can be legitimately claimed by any side at all. Next, Yeats' Byzantium poems critique the foundational Christian initiatives popular throughout Europe in the 1920s and 30s, presciently showing the dangers of eliminating religious opposition. Finally, poems like "The Second Coming" and "Under Ben Bulben" mimic the authoritarian rhetoric commonly used in Christian sermons, and expose places in the texts where history, readers, and overlooked personae can voice opposition.



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