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ISSN : 1226-4946(Print)
ISSN : 2288-5412(Online)
The Yeats Journal of Korea Vol.22 pp.43-71

Literature, Sex, and Politics: A Reading of Yeats's Early Poetry

Yoon Jung Mook


Aiming to understand the poetry of W. B. Yeats in terms of gender, sexuality,and politics, this paper reads some major poems of his early years. The first part ofthe paper reads the poems in which the masculine world of war, science, andpolitical power is negated in favor of the feminine world of nature, poetry, andwisdom. The present writer of the paper considers that the femininity of thesepoems, expressed in the pastoral world of the shepherd, or the stories of Irishlegendary King Goll, Fergus, and the fairyland, comes from Yeats's poetic attemptto surmount the British imperial and materialistic world by enhancing the Irishcultural traditions and values.
The next part reads a group of poems which deal with Yeats's love of MaudGonne. Using the image of the rose or the courtly genre, both of them being oldtraditional poetic conventions, the poet represents Maud Gonne either as a goddessof eternal beauty or a woman of heroic nobility. However, she is also representedas a woman of "lonely face" and "pilgrim soul," a woman who brings "the sorrowof love," or a woman repeatedly associated with the tragic world of Troy. Thisambivalence or double vision in the poet's representation of her seems to resultform Yeats's ambiguous attitude to Maud Gonne and her revolutionary and socialwork.
The last part of the paper deals with two poems and a play which representIreland as a woman. The use of a woman figure as symbolic image of Ireland,especially Yeats's use of Cathleen ni Houlihan in his poetry and drama, isimportant, because it most distinctively reveals the relations between sexual politicsand aesthetic value in the early poetry of Yeats. In this respect, the writer of thispaper notes that the woman figure in these works is a highly romanticized and idealized one, rather than a real one with human body and sexual desire, and thinksthat this is related to Yeats's version of Iriish nationalism with its strengths andlimitations.

문학과 성, 그리고 정치: 예이츠의 초기 시를 중심으로*



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