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Restless SecularismModernism and the Religious Inheritance$
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Matthew Mutter

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780300221732

Published to Yale Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.12987/yale/9780300221732.001.0001

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“Homer is My Example”: Yeats, Paganism, and the Emotions

“Homer is My Example”: Yeats, Paganism, and the Emotions

(p.114) 3 “Homer is My Example”: Yeats, Paganism, and the Emotions
Restless Secularism

Matthew Mutter

Yale University Press

There has been a resurgence of contemporary literary and theoretical interest in the status of emotion and affect. The example of Yeats suggests that the discourse surrounding emotion must take into account the religious and secular paradigms within which emotion is evaluated. This chapter shows how Yeats rejected the cultural authority of what he called “spiritual emotion,” “vague propagandistic emotion,” and “modern lyric feeling”—all inheritances, for him, of the inward, ascetic Christian self and its “affections”—and sought to replace them with the pagan “passions.” These passions assent to the singular, despotic nature of the will’s claims on the world and refuse to be subjugated to therapeutic or moral ends. They are equally martial states; they welcome conflict as the condition of their amplification. But in his treatment of “joy,” which he understands as the energy underwriting all manifestations of passion, Yeats “vacillates” between Christian models of the receptivity, gratuitousness, and communal reciprocity of joy, and pagan models where joy is an achievement of the victorious “will.”

Keywords:   Paganism, Secularism, Christianity, Emotion, Passion and the Passions, Joy, Vacillation, Conflict, Violence

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