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DOI : http://dx.doi.org/10.14354/yjk.2000.13.35
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전남대
Sexuality and Gender in Yeats’s “A Woman Young and Old”
,

Chonnam National University
Abstract
To Yeats, as Mario Praz remarks in The Romantic Agony, sex was “the mainspring of works of imagination”(vx). This paper is an attempt to read Yeats’s “A Woman Young and Old” in terms of poetic representations of feminine sexuality and gender. All written in years 1929 through 1931, the sequence of eleven poems deal with the problems of female body and desire in a repressive patriarchal society.
The first and introductory part of the paper briefly surveys the social and cultural background of the poems. The centrality of the subject of feminine sexuality and gender in these poems shows that Yeats saw the social and cultural repression of women and their sexual desire as one of the serious and urgent problems facing Ireland at that time. In Ireland of the 1920s, where the new national frame was being created under the hegemony of the Catholic Church and the middle class, the general attitude toward the women’s position and role and their sexual expression was very conservative and repressive.
The main part of the paper closely reads the poems of the sequence, from “Father and Child” in which a daughter boldly asserts sexual freedom in defiance of her father’s opposition and criticism, to “From the ‘Antigone’” which shows another daughter defying the authority of king for the sake of filial love and the freedom of conscience. In reading the poems, this paper tries to show how Yeats’s awareness and affirmation of the female body and desire is expressed in his criticism of the repressive sexual morality and culture of the Irish society, especially the Catholic Church. In opposition to that sexually repressive and ascetic culture, he shows women’s body and sexual desire in such a bold and affirmative way that the poetic expression itself turns out to be an effective critique of that culture.

 



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