The Book of Yeats's Vision
Romantic Modernism and Antithetical Tradition
In this sequel to his critical study of Yeats's poems, Hazard Adams turns to Yeats's odd, eccentric, comic, and finally serious prose work A Vision. A Vision has long exasperated some readers with its occultist connections and strange, pseudo-geometrical diagrams, and intrigued others with its odd origins and complex thought. Adams argues that the book is of extraordinary interest for its literary merit, its place in intellectual history as an example of romanticism's persistence in modernism, and its oblique defense of poetic fiction-making. Rather than treating the book in terms of its historical and biographical genesis, Adams discusses the finished product as it appeared in 1937, a uniquely woven fictional fabric in which Yeats invents himself as a character. The "technical" sections of A Vision are presented as part of this drama and are illustrated by charts that appeared originally in A Vision and explanatory ones by the author. In addition to his careful reading of the text, Adams shows that A Vision also presents a theory of poetry, art, and myth that goes under the Yeatsian term "antitheticality." This notion, which governs all of the dimensions of A Vision—philosophical, aesthetic, historical, and psychological—is drawn from a tradition stretching back to pre-Socratic ideas of warring opposites, through Giambattista Vico's account of "poetic wisdom" and William Blake's concept of "contraries." The Book of Yeats's Vision is essential reading for literary theorists, students, and scholars of Irish literature, and admirers of Yeats interested in his creative intellectual life.
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