States of Desire: Wilde, Yeats, Joyce, and the Irish Experiment

Hardcover | May 1, 1998

byVicki Mahaffey

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This book is an intimate study of the three giants in Irish literary history: Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, and James Joyce. In addition to constructing a narrative of Irelands political and literary past, Vicki Mahaffey interweaves the lives and writing of the authors into a portrait ofnational imagination, shaped not only by a vast cultural and mythic heritage, but also by the hard fact of English political domination. States of Desire argues that what people desire is fundamentally connected to how they write and read. Not only do language and narrative shape desire (and vice versa), but because these processes are socially conditioned, some political circumstances, such as those present in Ireland at the turnof the century, foster experimental desire more successfully than others. Mahaffey's contribution to the critical discourse on literary modernism is to assign a political motive to the art of modernist wordplay; in doing so, she offers a more compelling and socially driven version of the oft-toldtale of literary modernism. Irish writers, she argues, sought to disrupt the rigidity of political thinking and social control by turning language into a weapon; by opening up infinite new possibilities of meaning and association, linguistic play makes it impossible for thought to be monopolized bythe state or any other institutional power. In this light, the text becomes a prism of political, cultural, and erotic desires: a fountain of conscious and unconscious linguistic suggestion. Defying semantic control and refuting societal repression, Wilde, Yeats, and Joyce literally fought, in theirlives and in their work, for a freedom of expression which--as was painfully evidenced in the case of Wilde--was not to be had for the asking.

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This book is an intimate study of the three giants in Irish literary history: Oscar Wilde, William Butler Yeats, and James Joyce. In addition to constructing a narrative of Irelands political and literary past, Vicki Mahaffey interweaves the lives and writing of the authors into a portrait ofnational imagination, shaped not only by a v...

Vicki Mahaffey is at University of Pennsylvania.

other books by Vicki Mahaffey

Collaborative Dubliners: Joyce in Dialogue
Collaborative Dubliners: Joyce in Dialogue

Kobo ebook|Apr 1 2012

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Format:HardcoverDimensions:288 pages, 9.29 × 6.18 × 1.1 inPublished:May 1, 1998Publisher:Oxford University Press

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0195115929

ISBN - 13:9780195115925

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"Looks at issues of authority, responsibility, and identity and emerges with new and often startling perspectives on her subject. The writing is lucid and compelling, the scholarship thorough. This is a book not to be missed." English Literature in Translation 1880-1920