The Last Minstrels: Yeats and the Revival of the Bardic Arts

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Recovering a lost literary movement that was the most consuming preoccupation of W. B. Yeats's literary life and the most integral to his poetry and drama, Ronald Schuchard provides an historical, biographical, and critical reconstruction of the poet's lifelong attempt to restore an oral tradition by reviving the bardic arts of chanting and musical speech. From the beginning of his career Yeats was determined to return the 'living voice' of the poet from exile to the centre of culture-on its platforms, stages, and streets-thereby establishing a spiritual democracy in the arts for the non-reading as well as the reading public.

The Last Minstrels enhances our understanding of Yeats's cultural nationalism, his aims for the Abbey Theatre, and his dynamic place in a complex of interrelated arts in London and Dublin. With a wealth of new archival materials, the narrative intervenes in literary history to show the attempts of Yeats and Florence Farr to take the 'new art' of chanting to Great Britain, America, and Europe, and it reveals for the first time the influence of their auditory poetics on the visual paradigm of the Imagists. The penultimate chapter examines the adjustments Yeats made for his movement during the war, including chanting and other adaptations from Noh drama for his dance plays and choruses, until the practice of his 'unfashionable art' became dormant in the 1920s before the restless rise of realism. The final chapter resurrects his heroic effort in the 1930s to reunite poetry and music and reconstitute his dream of a spiritual democracy through the medium of public broadcasting.

About the Author:
Ronald Schuchard is Goodrich C. White Professor ofEnglish at Emory University

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This original and important book broadens our understanding of early twentieth-century poetry and culture and of important dimensions of Yeats's career—his cultural nationalism, his aims for the Abbey Theatre, his philosophy and techniques of poetic composition, and his dynamic place in a complex of interrelated arts in London and Dublin. The Last Minstrels: Yeats and the Revival of the Bardic Arts is essential to our understanding of modern literature and of W. B. Yeats. This is an impressive capstone work that only a scholar of Schuchard's stature, skills, and background in Yeats, Eliot, and modern literature could have written." —Modern Philology
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780199230006
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/28/2008
  • Pages: 528
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Ronald Schuchard is Goodrich C. White Professor of English at Emory University. He has written widely on modern literature, particularly on W. B. Yeats and T. S. Eliot. He is a former director of the Yeats International Summer School in Sligo and has co-edited three volumes of The Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats (OUP). He has edited Eliot's Clark and Turnball Lectures as The Varieties of Metaphysical Poetry (Faber), and he is author of the award-winning Eliot's Dark Angel (OUP). In 2006 he received a Guggenheim Fellowship to begin editing the multi-volume Complete Prose of T. S. Eliot.

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Table of Contents

Abbreviations     xii
List of Illustrations     xv
Preface     xix
Bardic Forefathers     1
London Minstrels     32
Dublin Minstrels     80
Minstrels and Masquers     113
Dancers and Choruses     151
A Spiritual Democracy     191
Minstrel Abroad     219
"As Regarding Rhythm": Minstrels and Imagists     256
Minstrels and Moderns     284
The Last Minstrel     335
Florence Farr, "The Chanting of Poems" (1905)     404
Florence Farr, "Music in Words" (1906)     407
Edmund Dulac, "Music and Poetry" (1937)     412
Selected Bibliography     415
Index     425
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