Biography as Promotional Discourse: The Case of Maud Gonne | Karen Steele - zolyblog.info
William Butler Yeats is one of Ireland's greatest poets and was a giant of the They stayed in contact but Gonne insisted their relationship was only platonic. In both his poetry and prose, Yeats revealed his devotion to Maud Gonne, and . lo\e, politics anti popular memory intersected in her relationship with W. B. Yeats. .. tliat 'market forces are reasserting themselves', for Jeffares selected Yeats's. SO here, under airtight, light-shielding glass, is a notebook given to William Butler Yeats in by Maud Gonne, the beautiful, brainy feminist.
Jeffares opens his introduction with the question: What made Yeats into a poet so concerned with love not only into his thirties hut after that, through middle age and indeed up to his death?
Answers to such questions hejjin witli facts' p. Jetfares's "facts," however, are crucially informed hy Yeats's autobiographi- cal writings, so once again we encounter an academic whose research is hased on one hiased perspective.
For example, jetfares's description of Yeats and Gonne's Hrst encounter is paradigmatic of his representation of Gonne: Flesh and hlood reality appeared on the scene when Maud Gonne arrived in a hansom at the Yeats family home ].
She Htted the hlueprint in the poet's imagination perfectly. She was heautiful, tall, goddess-like, and as ruthless a revolutionary as the orphaned daughter of a British army colonel could atford to be, for she was independent in mind and in means, idealis- tic and self-willed.
She was herself as an Irish patriotic leader; she helieved in war; she helieved in herself as a puhlic figure; and, ultimately, she proh- ably wanted power; she certainly enjoved excitement. Jeffares's insistent and naive readings of Yeats's love poetry depend wholly on the romance of Yeats and Gonne and an assured belief that the speaker in the poems 'is, of course, Yeats' p.
For example, at the Duhlin Writers Museum, Gonne is a central feature in the panel spotlighting Yeats. The cassette descrihes Gonne as: More enamored of men of action than men of letters she kept him at arm's length and even acknowledged to Yeats that by frustrating him, she had given his poems 'the unrest and storm that made them possible'.
While in the late I s there were over 40 summer schools, from the newdy founded Bram Stoker School to the well-estab- lished, international Joyce and Yeats Schools, yery few were dedicated to women. Spurgeon 'i'bompson has noted that one ofthe most dependabie aspects of the tourist narrative about his- toi-icai antl litei'ary figures is 'its inability to narrate a iiterary figure's biography without including place names or descriptions' p.
If the subject cannot be 'collapsed into the landscape and scenery' p. Because ol the L'omplications of Gonne's private life she needed to keep her extra-marital family life secret from to ; and later, as part ofthe French vertiict in her separati 5n irom MacBride, she was required to iive in France to retain custociy of her son Seanshe lived a peri- patetic and exiled lifestyle for nearly two decades As a result, Gonne has never been associated with a particular irish setting, despite her residence in i ubiin for the last 36 vears of her life.
As Angela Bourke has noted, even when a landscape is closelv associated with a prominent, female Irish cultui-al figure, a summer school has never materialized: Althougii Peig Sayers is the tutelary goddess ofthe Dingle Peninsuia, there is no summer school for her. She is on ali the iocal tourist promotion material, but her face is heing used as an image, not as an agent. She really should have her own summer schooi in Dun Chaoin. Peopie don't sit at women's feet in the same way' quoted in Donovan, Perhaiis few would consider the dearth of summer schools dedicatecl to women a cultural crisis.
Fintan O'lbole has observed that when 'the grand narrative of Irish nationalist history [was destroyed', it left 'a gap for the pop images to fill, not merely tor the tourist but for the native as well.
In the proeess, the real relationship of history and geography, the real narrative of this landscape, [was] occluded' p. Margaret Ward has named the convention the jihenom- enon of the 'missing sex'. For, despite the insistence by hoth revisionists and Field Day that tbeir perspective retlects the fullest picture of Irish politics and societv, neither have adequately addressed a group of activists who were insti-umental in shaping the direction of Ireland's history: As Ward has observed, while 'the production of teminist history seems at last to be coming ot age', women have become decreasingly visible in historical texts since The produc- tion of biograpiiies ot the very women who have been erased or relegated to the footnotes might seem to indicate a feminist reversal, but in the case of Gonne, many biographers are still heavily influenced by the dominant ideology that worked so effectively to erase women's presence in the first place.
The Yeats industry trom hostile- coverage of Gonne's friendship to popular paperbacks of the love poems - contributes to a widespread belief that Gonne was only an adjunct to a great man.
These images of Gonne are subsequently repeated in the literarv tourist market, further encouraging women's invisibility by ignoring their contributions ol allowing tourists to consume only trivialized and simjjiistic images that fail to tell the full, and usually complex, story. Ultimately, the literary biographies, his- torical narratives, and tourist representations of Gonne have a similar ideological result: Acknowledgement I am grateful to Spurgeon Thompson, who not only called mv attention to the Dublin Writers Museum and provided me with a copy of the tape of the tour, but also ottered valuable insights for making connections between biography and tourism.
Additionally, Gonne has been an important. Women and Irish Nationalism 1 9 9 5 ; and innes's Women and Nation 1 9 9 3. In u,sing the term popular memory I am referring to a concept of history writing that tries to reflect the means by which social memory is produced. I am particularly indebted to the work of the Popular Memory Group in the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies, and I share their idea of popular memory as a dimension of political practice that includes hut also moves heyt nd academic historiography.
The Popular Memory Group notes that a sense of the past is protluced hoth through public representations and through private memory. Dominant memory is produced in the course of these struggles and is always open to contestation p. Yeats and the Resurrection ofthe Author'. Elizabeth Butler Cullingford, director ofthe school inand Prof.
A military u]- rising led by the secret irish Republican Brotherhood and the Citizen Army, where the republic was proclaimed as an independent, social- ist republic.
The Rising was almost immediately suppressed by the British. Only two of the leaders were spared: Eamonn de Valera, who claimed American citizenship, and Constance Markicvicii, whose sentence was commuted to life in prison solely on account oi her sex. Read the history of our country, read its literature; I will lend you the booics and then you must lecture' p.
See also Clancy Still, Gonnes invocation of Cathleen ni Houhhan breed the government into the difficult position of criticizing a woman who, for many, still represented nationalist Ireland.
I'd prefer tbe poetry of WBY' 18 November She neglects a great deal of recent scholarship on Gonne, however, such as Balliet, Pratt and Ward.
The cassette tour discusses only two things about Yeats: References Balliet, Conrad A. University of Delaware Press.
Yeats and Women Yeais Annual. Benjamin, Walter Illuminations: Essays and Refections, trans.
Gonne girls: The women who fired WB Yeats's passion
Harry Zohn, Hannah Arendt ed. Coogan, Tim Pat 'Rev. Coxhead, Flizahcth Daughters of Erin: Five Women oj the Irish Resistance, London: CuUingford, Flizaheth Butler 1 Yeats. New York UP, Michael Rohcrtes and the Dancer', in Warwick Gould ed. Cambridge Uni- versitv Press. Deane, Seamus Celtic Revivals, London: Gould, Warwick 1 ' W B.
Yeats and the Resurrection of the Author', The Library: Hone, Joseph W B. University of Georgia Press. Cross eds In Excited Reverie: A Centenary Tribute to W B. A- Norman 'Maud Gcmne: Yeats and Women, Yeats Annual. Levenson, Samuel Alaud Gonne: Women and Irish Nationalism, Dublin: In Their Own Voice: In Tbeir Own Voiee: Women and Irisb Nationalism, i' ublin: Is the young poet who wants to create a unique new voice for Ireland hinting that he is oppressed by the power of classical stories and symbols?
Possibly, but I think it more likely that this is intended as a critique of shallowly cosmetic s aestheticism. Yeats was already mining Irish myth and folklore. Here, in the second stanza, Yeats squares up with grand self-confidence to both Irish and classical myth-making. Of course, there is also an actual girl in Yeats's autobiographical picture at this time: Maud Gonne, who will later be compared to Helen of Troy.
But the figure here is more than human.
Poem of the week: The Sorrow of Love by WB Yeats | Books | The Guardian
She belongs to the aisling genreand, with those "red mournful lips" evoking the symbolic "rose" which for Yeats has erotic, mystical and nationalistic connotations, she is both the idealised beloved and the vision of Ireland.
What but Ireland itself could embody "the greatness of the world in tears"? This image conveys nationhood as simultaneously magnified and tragically "blotted out". If, by itself, the phrase seems a shade overblown, its audacity is affirmed by the two subsequent comparisons, in which Odysseus, the heroic Greek wanderer, and Priam, the defeated Trojan King, are fused in this strange, mythic-human woman with the sensuous mouth.
His long poetic career was fuelled by passionate relationships with women to, and about whom, he wrote some of his most compelling poetry. The poems he wrote about the love of his life, Maud Gonne were described as "the most sustained and fully developed tribute to a Muse in the history of literature in English" by Joseph Hassett, author of W. Yeats and the Muses.
It was on January 30th when the year-old English ex-debutante Maud Gonne arrived at the Yeats family home in Bedford Park, London in a hansom and "the troubling of my life began".
The poet was immediately enthralled, writing that 'her complexion was luminous', like that of 'apple blossom through which the light falls'. At that time, Gonne was having an affair with the much older French politician and journalist Lucien Millevoye with whom she went on to have her daughter Iseult.
Her disastrous marriage to him in was one of the great upheavals of Yeats's life. She turned down Yeats's first marriage proposal in and went on to reject a number of future proposals. They finally consummated their relationship in Paris in when they were both in their 40s but rather than heralding a new phase, it seems to have shut the door on any hopes Yeats may have harboured for marriage.
Professor Anthony Roche of UCD School of English, Drama and Film notes that Maud Gonne's unattainability as a sexual partner "was the source of endless unfulfilled yearning on the part of WB, inspiring a succession of memorable poems he would write articulating that passion.