Playing at Being: Style, Ethics, and W.B. Yeats, offers a reading of the canonical Irish poet by looking at how the tradition of European aesthetic and romantic philosophy informs both Yeats’s poetics, and the critical premises of those who have written on him. Although I employ the traditional literary method of close reading, I am also concerned to philosophically question the ground of literary value. My tutelary authorities for this endeavour are Immanuel Kant, Friedrich Schiller, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Beyond critically evaluating Yeats, I aim to define the value of literary style through Yeats, and, in doing so, make connections between literature, knowledge and ethics. At the heart of my study is the argument that there is a fundamental relationship between literary accomplishment and the practice of political sovereignty expressed at the individual and national level. By showing how literature, especially poetry, engages and qualifies statements of cultural authority, my thesis ranges from the philosophical to the sociological
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