W.B. Yeats, Unity of Culture, and the Spiritual Telos of Ireland

  • R. Kenneth KirbyEmail author
Part of the Analecta Husserliana book series (ANHU, volume 109)


In “Philosophy and the Crisis of European Man,” Husserl speaks of the need for “a theory of the essence of spirit as spirit, a theory that pursues what is unconditionally universal in the spiritual order with its own elements and its own laws.” Husserl’s contemporary W. B. Yeats (1865–1939) also had a life-long concern for identifying and nurturing in Irish culture and art those spiritual elements that were universal but, in his opinion, most noticeably present in Ireland. In this paper the author examines Yeats’s pursuit of a Unity of Being that would lead to Unity of Culture, focusing on poems and prose of the 1890s and 1920s. Critics disagree on the degree to which his later work still reflects the idealism and optimism of his work in the 1890s, when he began creating and promoting an art that would launch Ireland into an era of cultural excellence and political independence. The author argues that when examined from a phenomenological perspective, Yeats’s work from about 1917 on shows that neither his ideas nor his technique changed substantially, and that he continued to practice and advocate the openness to experience that would be required to advance toward personal, cultural, and political strength, toward an Irish telos that would emerge as generations passed.


Spiritual Experience Cultural Nationalism Pure Race Irish Culture Irish Nation 
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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Samford UniversityBirminghamUSA

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