In Deep-Rooted Things, Rob Doggett examines Yeats’s shifting relationship with the warring discourses of British cultural imperialism and Irish nationalism during Ireland’s transition from colony to partially independent nation. By focusing on key historical events that Yeats witnessed and on the nationalist movements he both embraced and resisted, Doggett identifies the core features of Yeats’s aesthetic program through new readings of central poems and plays in the Yeats canon.
Doggett presents Yeatsian nationalism as a fluid category, a series of masks that Yeats adopted, rejected, and re-created throughout his life. He casts Yeats’s continual artistic reinvention—his privileging of contradiction over resolution—as repeated attempts to provide in art some foundations for national unity. He reveals Yeats’s deep and often conflicted response to issues of identity, history, and nationhood—issues always central to discourses of colonization, colonial resistance, and postcolonialism. Because Yeats’s writings are so intimately linked with the development of Ireland as a nation, Deep-Rooted Things will place Yeats—both a canonical “British” high modernist and an ambivalent Irish nationalist—at the center of debates concerning the relationship between modernist studies and postcolonial theory.
Deep-Rooted Things is organized around two historical periods—the first decade of the twentieth century, when Yeats was involved in the creation and promotion of the Irish National Theatre Society; and the period from 1919 to 1928, when Yeats the artist and senator struggled to reinvent himself as a cultural nationalist against the backdrop of the Anglo-Irish War, the Irish Civil War, and the consolidation of the Irish Free State. A rich and rewarding reading of Yeats that places the poetry and plays in a new context, Deep-Rooted Things will interest students of literary criticism and Irish studies.
Rob Doggett’s Deep-Rooted Things is a wonderfully nuanced, deeply thoughful study which should have a lasting place in Yeats studies. Richly responsive to the twists and turns of Yeats’s thinking, profoundly revealing of the currents and crosscurrents in his magnificent oeuvre, this is a major contribution." —Jahan Ramazani, University of Virginia
“Doggett defines Yeats’s nationalism in a particularly effective, original, and compelling way. Yeats’s nationalism is not a new topic, but many scholars have tended to see it as something that is intellectually simple, divorced from the complexities of Yeats’s thought. Of those who acknowledge its complexity, few actually demonstrate this complexity at length, which is what Doggett has done.” —Marjorie Howes, Boston College, and author of Yeats’s Nations: Gender, Class, and Irishness
“According to Doggett, Yeats’ nationalism reflects an imagined nation in which all ‘accept a common design’ without demanding a specific vision. Focusing on the first decade of the 20th century and on 1919-28, Doggett reads drama and poetry as dialectical, moving between unity and disunity, reinventing the present in light of the past. . . . Doggett shows Yeats’ movement from imagined exile to poems of engagement to poems informed by his visionary system. This cycle provides a space where the Irish nation can be contemplated and imagined anew.” — Choice
Included in University Press Books Selected for Public and Secondary School Libraries for 2007 by the American Library Association