His poetry’s great but could WB Yeats think straight?

Joe Humphreys (The Irish Times)

Yeats_DigitalYeats engaged in ‘cultural mutiny’ against the encroachment of science

Rational” is not the first word that comes to mind when you think of WB Yeats. He was a devoted follower of the occult, magic and astrology, and a romantic celebrant of fairies and unrequited love, but he had what George Orwell called a “fascist tendency” in the political realm.

Harsh words indeed, although Yeats unashamedly elevated imagination over rational calculation. As the late Thomas Duddy explained in A History of Irish Thought: “Turning away from what he calls ‘the scientific movement’ in literature, [Yeats] orients himself towards those things that natural science chooses to ignore or despise . . . This ‘love of the Unseen life’ is as much a gesture of cultural mutiny – a defiant gesture towards the encroachment of science – as an article of faith.”

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