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An Evolving Trajectory: Reading Political Disillusion in William Butler Yeats's "The Circus Animals' Desertion"

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dc.contributor.advisor McInerney, Maud Burnett Kelly, Brooke 2015-08-19T18:30:52Z 2015-08-19T18:30:52Z 2015
dc.description.abstract For my thesis, I sought to enact a new reading of William Butler Yeats’s “The Circus Animals’ Desertion.” I attempted to reach beyond its commonly accepted reading, which states that it was written merely as an account of the feeling of defeat that Yeats experienced in the last years of his life when he felt he had lost his connection to his old works. While this reading is fundamentally accurate, I find this explanation alone to be under-reaching, encouraging me to look into the political and historical context of Ireland during Yeats’s lifetime, in an attempt to detect a deeper meaning. I argued that Yeats’s primary motivation behind writing “The Circus Animals’ Desertion” was to highlight his disillusion with postcolonial Ireland, and the ways in which he felt disappointed by the result of a cause about which he felt so passionate. The trajectory of Yeats’s career both as a poet and a politician, most specifically as a member of the Irish Senate, fluctuated around the Irish rebellion from England. Originally, Yeats believed in Irish nationality through the arts, which shifted as he became more committed to political nationality during the rebellion. His palpable disappointment displayed in “The Circus Animals’ Desertion” surrounds his realization that poetry was never acknowledged as the political tool he believed it could be. This political reading of the poem, with the help of New Historicism, demonstrates the ways that poetry cannot be separated from its context. The metaphor within “The Circus Animals’ Desertion” is representative of Yeats’s sense of futility after the failure of his life’s mission to unite poetry and politics under the greater veil of Irish nationality.
dc.description.sponsorship Haverford College. Department of English
dc.language.iso eng
dc.subject.lcsh Yeats, W. B. (William Butler), 1865-1939. Poems. Selections
dc.subject.lcsh Yeats, W. B. (William Butler), 1865-1939 -- Criticism and interpretation
dc.subject.lcsh Political poetry
dc.title An Evolving Trajectory: Reading Political Disillusion in William Butler Yeats's "The Circus Animals' Desertion"
dc.type Thesis
dc.rights.access Haverford users only

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