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Power, Plain English, and the Rise of Modern Poetry$
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David Rosen

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780300100716

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: October 2013

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300100716.001.0001

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W. B. Yeats and the Language of Autobiography

(p.73) Chapter 3 Certain Good
Power, Plain English, and the Rise of Modern Poetry

David Rosen

Yale University Press

This chapter first explores Yeats's professional distress expressed through his 1909 poem “Words.” It narrates his disenchantment with language, where language was for him once an artistic expression that would help shape and change society, now became seemingly opposed to normal, healthy living. Part of this chapter's purpose, then, is to dispute and argue against the consensus that Yeats's adoption of the low register—or plain English—is crucial to his role in British Modernism. This chapter also explores how Yeats's use of plain English and his sudden awareness at the futility of language are closely related. It examines Yeats's work in autobiography in his collection of poems Responsibilities (1814) and in his memoirs and how the low register figures and seeps its way into these texts. Throughout this analysis of Yeats's work, careful attention is paid to his use of the low register.

Keywords:   W. B. Yeats, Words, low register, plain English, British Modernism, language, autobiography, Responsibilities, distress, disenchantment

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