Neutrality and Commitment: MacNeice, Yeats, Ireland and the Second World War

Brown, Richard Danson (2005). Neutrality and Commitment: MacNeice, Yeats, Ireland and the Second World War. Journal of Modern Literature, 28(3) pp. 109–129.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.2979/JML.2005.28.3.109

Abstract

This essay explores MacNeice’s reading of Yeats, arguing that the relationship between the two poets is crucial to understanding both MacNeice’s work during the Second World War and his own ambivalent relationship with Ireland and Irishness. Though concentrating on the criticism and poetry of the early to mid-1940s, I suggest that Yeats remained central to MacNeice’s critical thinking. Detailed readings of ‘The Coming of War’ and ‘The Casualty’ bring out both the Yeatsian textures of these poems and expose the way in which MacNeice’s poetry conducts a critical dialogue with Yeats which remains at once admiring and dissenting.

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