{[ promptMessage ]}

Bookmark it

{[ promptMessage ]}

f08_schultz_352_f - E l i f l t t l 3 t i f g l f l f...

Info icon This preview shows pages 1–20. Sign up to view the full content.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 1

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 2
Image of page 3

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 4
Image of page 5

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 6
Image of page 7

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 8
Image of page 9

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 10
Image of page 11

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 12
Image of page 13

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 14
Image of page 15

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 16
Image of page 17

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 18
Image of page 19

Info icon This preview has intentionally blurred sections. Sign up to view the full version.

View Full Document Right Arrow Icon
Image of page 20
This is the end of the preview. Sign up to access the rest of the document.

Unformatted text preview: E l i f l t t l 3 t i f g l f l f READING YEATS IN POPULAR CULTURE The mass culture of the electronic age is frequently characterized, especially by contemporary devotees of Adorno, as an agent of hegemony, a tool for the manufacture of political consent. Advertisements, television, Hollywood movies, popular music and most newspapers and magazines are seen as vehiv cles of the ruling ideology: financed by global capital, driven by the power of the market and designed to promote passive consumerism. Certainly mass culture is more visible than culture created by ‘the people’. Folksong, street games, poetry slams and other communal rituals, all of which require an oral rather than a print or electronic medium and highlight performance rather than consumption, may continue to flourish, but they are necessarily less potent as agents of ideological saturation than television or the Internet. Yet it seems pointless, as well as elitist, to attempt to defend the barricades of ethi- cal, aesthetic and political value erected to distinguish both ‘high’ and ‘folk’ art from the manipulative inauthenticity of commercial ‘mass: culture. One of the numerous challenges of cultural studies is to discover if and how new media, new technologies and the new habits of spectatorship they have cre— ated can meaningfully incorporate and transform the classics of the past. Antony Easthope has argued persuasively for a practice of cultural studies that, instead of replacing the analysis of the canon with analysis of, say, adver- tising or soap operas, recognizes ‘a necessity to read high and popular [texts] together” (167). The boundaries between ‘high’ and ‘low’ culture are too porous to be strictly policed. lndeed, bizarre and interesting things happen on boundaries. In a recent issue of the magazine UFO Universe, a long and surprisingly well-informed article on Yeats uses ‘Leda and the Swan' and ‘The Second Coming to demon- strate that the poet foresaw ‘not only the modern phenomenon of alien abduc- tions, but also the coming of alien/human hybrids and even the sighting of a Sphinx-like face on Mars’ (Chambers).l In this contemporary context, Yeats‘s ‘shape with lion body and the head of a man‘ (Poems 187') occupies the same cultural space as reports of paranormal cattle—niaiming in New Mexico and Speculation about the American government’s secret collaboration with extra- terrestrials. Such a collocation of Yeats and UFOs may offend the purists, but it is entirely appropriate. Rationalist intellectuals deride popular millenarian- ism, but Yeats never met a supernatural manifestation he did not like, or at least investigate, and throughout his life his interest in the occult was as New Age as that of any Southern Californian theosophist.2 ‘The Second Corning) 193 194 Ireland's Others and the alien abduction scenario both attempt to make sense of a universe apparently Spinning out of control, to explain the unexplainable by reference to a paranoid system of secret knowledge. Perhaps because so many of the ter~ rible events of the twentieth century seem to defy rational explanation. ‘The Second Coming‘ is currently one of the best»known poems in the English- speaking world. So many writers, politicians, journalists, advertisers and car- toonists regularly cite it that William Safire has suggested its number should be retired (LPoliticians’), Yeats’s presence in contemporary popular culture, as a non-verbal icon or a source of poetic allusions, may reflect either a modernist or a postmodernist aesthetic, In the modernist aesthetic, subscribed to by Yeats himself, meaning may be elusive and difficult but close attention will usually uncover it. In the unified modernist work (and indeed in the modernist reading that most of us still practise), the text signifies all over: every detail is important, and there- fore some knowledge of the original is indispensable to the interpretation of a literary allusion. Although at the dawn of the age of mass media traditional culture was already fragmented, high modernist artists clung to the heritage of \Nestern civilization: T. S. Eliot’s ‘heap of broken images” (Poems 63) or Ezra Pound's ‘two gross of broken statues“ (Personae 188). If we do not know The Tempest or Tristan und Isolde, for example, our understanding of The Waste Land will be impoverished. To a modernist writer or reader, it matters that we recognize Yeats as the source and authorial guarantor of phrases such as ‘Things fall apart”, ‘the centre cannot hold“, or ‘Slouches towards Bethlehem”. Contemporary postmodernist culture, on the other hand, has supposedly abolished the ‘depth’ model of literary and cultural enquiry. Terry Eagleton satirically paraphrases the postmodern ethic: ‘if only we could kick our meta- physical nostalgia Ior truth, meaning and history . , . we might come to rec- ognize that . . . fragments and surfaces [are] all we ever have, kitsch [is] quite as good as the real thing because there is in fact no real thing’ (Against 143). In this view, the shards of culture that we unearth can never be reassembled into a statue and Yeats's phrases float free of their origin in his poem, In the absence of any meaningful historical sense, our references to the classic works of the past function as pastiche (depthless and mechanical copying) rather than intertextuality (the production of significance out of the relationship between two discrete texts and contexts). If this is so, we might ask why any- one should refer to Yeats at all; critics hostile to postmodernism would doubt- less answer that, while the poet’s relation to meaning and truth (that is to history and ethics) has vanished, his status as a commodity fetish has never been higher. Without having to read him, American consumers understand that the postmodernist ‘Yeats’ signifies cultural capital. Indeed, the Sears advertisement in Fig. 7 demonstrates the use of a volume of Yeats’s poetry as a fashion statement. The headline ‘Come see the softer side of Sears= pairs with the androgynous cuteness of the young male model to suggest that reading poetry is not a macho activity. Since this is a /RI Fig. 7', The SofterSi. ‘Back to School Sa who buys the Col this good—looking his cool, Yeats's pc henleys’ and ‘this vidualists, so the t ment’. Should he is reassured that S the rightness of ti Nothing indicate: perused the come dent of the meani Shaken loosef college-age youth, modern America t npt to make sense of a universe n the unexplainable by reference 'haps because so many of the ter- 3 defy rational explanation, ‘The :t-known poems in the English- , journalists, advertisers and car— ias suggested its number should 7 culture, as a non—verbal icon or t a modernist or a postmodernist Jed to by Yeats himself, meaning 3n will usually uncover it. In the iodernist reading that most of us y detail is important, and there- pensable to the interpretation of he age of mass media traditional nist artists clung to the heritage ‘oken images’ (Poems 63) or Ezra ae 188). If we do not know The )ur understanding of The Waste riter or reader, it matters that we I guarantor of phrases such as r ‘Slouches towards Bethlehem’. the other hand, has supposedly cultural enquiry Terry Eagleton ‘if only we could kick our meta- ;tory . . . we might come to rec— III we ever have, kitsch [is] quite fact no real thing’ (Against 143). tearth can never be reassembled their origin in his poem. In the 1r references to the classic works 1nd mechanical copying) rather ificance out of the relationship ’liS is so, we might ask why any- 0 postmodernism would doubt— ) meaning and truth (that is to is a commodity fetish has never merican consumers understand al capital. . 7 demonstrates the use of a nt. The headline ‘Come see the )us cuteness of the young male a macho activity Since this is a Reading Yeats in Popular Culture 195 Come. seems: soiersicieof Sears the right look... henley & vesl 14.99 each Ba youmlf. me A shammum. You're looking {or wmlm...fnr damn tome mum manual and brusde bmleye m m octave: Regularity mes-sax Med um mm mm' suede vest Regularly ‘20 a rd-ygAu “.1 gun“ I: a. IW: nun-m. m mwmwmaunmm Stripemmmmmmmm. I .- Fig. 7. The Softer Side. of Sears. ‘Back to School Sale’ the target audience is the sensitive college kid, the kind who buys the Collected Poems rather than using the Norton Anthology. For this good-looking lover of verse, and for all those who would like to emulate his cool, Yeats’s poetry must be equated with the purchase of ‘colorful cotton henleys’ and ‘this happenin’ suede vest’. Poets and readers of poetry are indi— vidualists, so the prospective consumer is urged to ‘Be yourself. Make a state— ment’. Should he worry that being himself might expose him to ridicule, he is reassured that Sears has ‘the right look’; and the volume of Yeats guarantees the rightness of the look by demonstrating that Sears knows the right poet. Nothing indicates that either the advertisers or the model have actually perused the contents of the book. ‘Poetry’ and ‘Yeats’ have a value indepen- dent of the meaning of words. Shaken loose from his historical context and used to promote suede vests to college-age youth, Yeats as icon fits comfortably into the mass culture of post~ modern America that is censured by Eagleton and Jameson. In The Bridges of i. x. P, flat it its ES, #4“ as r is; 196 Ireland’s Others Madison County (1995), Francesca (Meryl Streep) and Robert (Clint Eastwood) also make use of what we may call the Sears Yeats: she drops an unattributed misquotation from the ‘Song of Vt’andering Aengusi, ‘when white birds lit should be moths] are on the wing’, into an invitation to dinner, he recognizes the line as belonging to Yeats, and we see a brief shot of her (like the Sears model) clutching the Collected Poems. They both know the right poet, though perhaps not all that well. \Nhen they meet again, he continues the “Song of Wane dering Aeng‘us’ (mis)quotation game with ‘the silver apples of the moon, and [sicl golden apples of the sun’, In case we missed the point, she promptly names the poet and supplies the title, while he continues: ‘Good stuff, Yeats . . . music, economy, sensuousness. beauty, magic, all that appeals to my Irish ancestry’. This breathtakingly banal list has all the resonance of 21 Sears catalogue: the commodity on display is lrishness, and the come-on is romance. Not all the consumerist versions of Yeats are equally depthless or deraci- nated, however. When the ln'sh put the poet‘s face on the twenty—punt note, were they celebrating the tourist revenue that he continues to generate or remembering that he was an actively engaged chairman of the committee that created newly independent lreland’s first and most handsome metal coinage? Surely profit and history are here symbolically and aptly allied. That banknote (affectionately nicknamed a ‘Yeat' by the poets descendants) has been retired. but, from his summer school in Sligo t0 the tea towels, T—shirts and coffee mugs imprinted with his image or a few lines from his verse, Yeats permeates the culture the Irish sell to foreign tourists,3 and even to themselves. Journal- ism about the Troubles in the North could hardly survive without reference to ‘Easter 19l 6’; depending on the writer’s attitude to the IRA, either ‘a terri- ble beauty is born’ or ‘too long a sacrifice can make a stone of the heart“. The audio-visual presentation at the Pearse Museum in Dublin is called ‘This Man Kept a School’, which must strike Visitors unfamiliar with ‘Easter 19] 6’ as a distinctly peculiar title. lrish academics are equally in Yeats’s linguistic debt: the respected historian Joe Lee uses ‘The Second Coming’, written in 1919, to explicate the postnindependence years, which in fact contradicted Yeats’s prophecy of political apocalypse: ‘lt was due in a large measure to him [Cos- grave] that things did not fall apart, that the centre did hold, that not so many but so few of the rough beasts slouching through the Ireland of the twenties would reach their blood soaked Bethlehems’ (Lee 174). Lee’s allusion is tightly bound to the context of the original, but the philosopher Richard Kearney deftly moves the poem away from its material origins towards the more abstract world of theory: ‘After deconstruction, we are told, the centre cannot hold’ (Postnationalist 62). Yeats is not the only literary source for merchandisers and academics: James joyce, as much the presiding spirit of Dublin as Yeats is the avatar of Sligo and Gort, rivals him in the memorabilia stakes, and has even usurped his place on the banknotes.4 Other writers, like Synge, have acquired a sum— mer school of their own. The ‘heritage’ industry has attracted considerable hostility: like the film i pretative centres are de versal chorus of praist suggests that it is not 5 lematic, but the politic effect of their placemei the difference betweer museum at Strokestov which the Irish past ca the Yeats Summer Schn ocally the commerciali who originally produc stray poem lodges in tl that ‘high art’ should r Regrettably or not, to lights an aspect of lre grange, and less frag Lascaux Two, divert t the ‘aura’, to use Benj be conscious of miss‘ poetry, on the other i tion, and is immeasui One of the charge capital is that it leads of classical music or similarly, Helen Venc like ‘cutting off the h criminate between t) that poems are inhei facts such as passage Burren: Since bi But sad How Wi Whose Shakespeare’s answ( Perhaps ‘1 will arise the immortality that paid the poetic darn ciple that there is n cated phrase could intellectual end of LI reep) and Robert (Clint Eastwood) s Yeats: she drops an unattributed g Aengus‘, ‘when white birds [it invitation to dinner, he recognizes a brief shot of her (like the Sears both know the right poet, though tin, he continues the “Song ofWan- he silver apples of the moon, and .sed the point, she promptly names .nues: ‘Good stuff, Yeats . , . music, hat appeals to my Irish ancestry’. sonance of a Sears catalogue: the :ome-on is romance. 5 are equally depthless or deraci- et’s face on the twenty—punt note, that he continues to generate or d chairman of the committee that d most handsome metal coinage? ly and aptly allied. That banknote :t’s descendants) has been retired, 1e tea towels, T-shirts and coffee is from his verse, Yeats permeates and even to themselves journal— bardly survive without reference ittitude to the IRA, either ‘a terri- tn make a stone of the heart’. The turn in Dublin is called ‘This Man infamiliar with ‘Easter 1916’ as a equally in Yeats’s linguistic debt: 20nd Coming‘, written in 1919, to hich in fact contradicted Yeats”s e in a large measure to him [Cos— centre did hold, that not so many rough the Ireland of the twenties (Lee 174). Lees allusion is tightly he philosopher Richard Kearney terial origins towards the more an, we are told, the centre cannot r merchandisers and academics: f Dublin as Yeats is the avatar of lia stakes, and has even usurped .ike Synge, have acquired a surn~ lustry has attracted considerable Reading Yeats in Popular Culture 197 hostility: like the film versions ofjane Austen and E. M. Forster, Irish inter- pretative centres are deplored as pap for the culturally dispossessed.5 The uni» versal chorus of praise for the Famine Museum at Strokestown, however, suggests that it is not so much the existence of heritage centres that is prob— lematic, but the political angle at which their contents are displayed, or the effect of their placement on the landscape they purport to explicate" And, as the difference between the failed Celtworld theme park and the successful museum at Strokestown demonstrates, the economic and ideological uses to which the Irish past can be put are infinitely variable. As a former Director of the Yeats Summer School in Sligo, I find myself unable to condemn unequiv- ocally the commercialization of the Irish literary heritage. Like most of those who originally produced it, I am glad when literature sells, even gladder if a stray poem lodges in the luggage ofan otherwise indifferent traveller. The idea that ‘high art’ should remain uncontaminated by money is a Romantic fiction. Regrettably or not, tourism is a fact of Irish life; and literary tourism high- lights an aspect of Ireland’s past that is as real as the passage grave at New- grange, and less fragile. The planned simulacrum of Newgrange will, like Lascaux Two, divert the flow of tourist traffic and prevent the destruction of the ‘aura’, to use Benjamin’s term, of the original. But most tourists will still be conscious of missing Newgrange One. The experience of reading Yeats’s poetry, on the other hand, does not depend on the possession of a first edi— tion, and is immeasurably enriched by an acquaintance with Ireland. One of the charges most often levelled against the exploitation of cultural capital is that it leads to a vulgarization and trivialization of ‘high art”. The use of classical music or images in television advertising incenses some critics,7 similarly, Helen Vendler argues that “ripping a line or two out of a poem” is like ‘cutting off the head of the Apollo Belvedere‘.8 But it is necessary to dis— criminate between types of exploitation. Shakespeare pointed out long ago that poems are inherently less vulnerable to tourist depredations than arte- facts such as passage graves or ecologically sensitive natural treasures like the Burren: Since brass, nor stone, nor earth, nor boundless sea, But sad mortality o’ersways their power, How With this rage shall beauty hold a plea, Whose action is no stronger than a flower? (Sonnet 65) Shakespeare’s answer is that ‘in black ink my love may still shine bright”. Perhaps ‘I will arise and go now’ inscribed on a coffee mug was not precisely the immortality that Shakespeare had in mind, but as long as the royalties are paid the poetic damage is hard to calibrate, One might even invoke the prin- ciple that there is no such thing as bad publicity: acquaintance with a trun— cated phrase could induce curiosity about the whole poem. At the more intellectual end of the exploitation scale, the various summer schools are even 198 Ireland’s Others harder to censure, since their aim is to deepen rather than fragment or trivi— alize the experience of literature, Though the competing attractions of Guin- ness and scenery should not he underestimated, most literary tourists do not attend summer schools in order to avoid reading the works of the featured writer, whoever he (usually he) may be. Sometimes, of course, the iconic Yeats is used in spectacularly inappropri— ate contexts: for example, there used to be a daycare centre in Sli go called ‘The Stolen Child” whose proprietors had surely never read that slightly sinister poem about a little boy abducted by the fairies. (‘The Stolen Child’ was more aptly quoted on Dublin posters warning the public about cot death.)9 But sometimes the context is perfectly apropos, as when the line ‘I will aiise and go now, and go to Innisfree’ was used to caption the home page of the North West Tourist Guide on the World Wide Web. '0 Yeats, who was one of the first poets to broadcast on the radio, would have been delighted by his presence in cyberspace, and indeed ‘The Lake Isle of lnnisfree‘ was among the texts he chose to transpose from print into the new audio technology. As one of his most famous and best-loved poems, it was a felicitous choice for the new pop- ular medium, The volume in which it appears, Poems 1895, which was reprinted fifteen times in Yeats’s lifetime, continued to satisfy the taste of the poetry-buying public long after he had published his more difficult modernist work.11 And its appeal has lasted: in a 1999 Poetry Ireland poll, ‘The Lake Isle of Innisfree" headed the list of one hundred favourite Irish poems (Dorgan) ‘The Lake Isle of lnnisfree" taps into the perennial longing for a peaceful life close to nature, a longing also expl...
View Full Document

{[ snackBarMessage ]}

What students are saying

  • Left Quote Icon

    As a current student on this bumpy collegiate pathway, I stumbled upon Course Hero, where I can find study resources for nearly all my courses, get online help from tutors 24/7, and even share my old projects, papers, and lecture notes with other students.

    Student Picture

    Kiran Temple University Fox School of Business ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    I cannot even describe how much Course Hero helped me this summer. It’s truly become something I can always rely on and help me. In the end, I was not only able to survive summer classes, but I was able to thrive thanks to Course Hero.

    Student Picture

    Dana University of Pennsylvania ‘17, Course Hero Intern

  • Left Quote Icon

    The ability to access any university’s resources through Course Hero proved invaluable in my case. I was behind on Tulane coursework and actually used UCLA’s materials to help me move forward and get everything together on time.

    Student Picture

    Jill Tulane University ‘16, Course Hero Intern