Joseph Leondar Schneider: Unity of Culture in Yeats’s Drama
Professor Schneider begins his investigation of Yeats’s drama by noting that several apparent inconsistencies “suggest that Yeats failed to leave an altogether orderly literary estate.” Whereas Yeats initially endeavored to become a poet of the people, after the Playboy riots in 1907 he abandoned his egalitarian ideals and became a poet of the intellectual aristocracy, and by the end of his career his social criticism of marital “mesalliance” led him to contradict his mystical theory of daimonic fulfillment through reconciliation of opposites. Schneider sets out to trace Yeats’s changing relation to his Irish culture through close readings of selected plays from The King’s Threshold (1904) to The Death of Cuchulain (1939). His primary interpretive tool is A Vision, which he ably uses to illuminate in several plays Yeats’s concept of the soul’s purgatorial “Dreaming-Back” as a consequence of intellectual hatred. Schneider’s study has undergone “many metamorphoses,” we are told, in its transformation from dissertation into book, but, while making significant observations about Yeats’s drama, it retains in its final form some inconsistencies that leave it, too, in a not altogether orderly literary state.
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