Denis Donoghue


1928- ; b. Tullow, Co. Carlow; son of a Catholic in the RUC stationed at Warrenpoint [nr. Newry], Co. Down; ed. UCD (grad. Latin & English); entered Royal Irish Academy soon after to study Lieder [singing] with Brian Boydell; completed MA dissertation on Charles Macklin; first employed after graduation as Admin. Officer in the Irish Civil Service; appt. to Asst. Lectureship in English at UCD by Jeremiah J. Horgan; took lectureship at Cambridge as Fellow of King’s College, where he lectured on Swift as Tripos Special Author; later occupied the Chair of Modern English, UCD, 1967, and afterwards moved ot the Henry James Chair of English and American Letters, NYU; first director of the W. B. Yeats Annual Summer School, 1967- ;
edited Irish issue of Times Literary Supplement (17 March 1972) and issued the Memoirs of W. B. Yeats (1972), having transcribed the MS “Autobiography” and “Journal” among Yeats’s papers; strenuously attacked current literary theory in the review-essay “Deconstructing Deconstruction” (NY Review of Books, 12 June 1980), elicited strong responses from Paul Alpers et al.; gave the BBC Reith Lectures, 1983 (“Art with Mystery”); elected to American Academy of Arts and Science, 1983; appointed official biography of W. B. Yeats by Mrs. Yeats, but soon afterwards resigned this office to F. S. L. Lyons (who was succceeded at his death by Roy Foster);
issued The Ordinary Universe: Soundings in Modern Literature (1968), and Jonathan Swift (1971); issued Warrenpoint (1990), an autobiography; issued The Pure Good of Theory (1992), essays; Walter Pater: Lover of Strange Souls (1995); contrib. ‘Is There a Case against Ulysses?’, a critique of Frederic Jameson’s essay on the Joyce’s novel, to the 1989 James Joyce Conference in Philadelphia; attacked post-colonialist tendency in Irish literary criticism at the Yeats Summer School in keynote address, 1997; debated same with Seamus Deane, NYU, Dec. 1997; issued Adam’s Curse: Reflections on Religion and Literature (2001); issued Speaking of Beauty (2003); his dg. is the novelist Emma Donoghue; his son David is in the Irish Dept. of Foreign Affairs, sometime based in London;
he was the subject of a transatlantic conference held at Queen’s University, Belfast, and directed by Robert Mahony (CUA) et al., in 2005, with a festschift arising from it in 2007; his new book Metaphor is due to appear from Harvard UP in 2014; issued Metaphor (2104) - critical essays from Milton to McEwan; he married Frances Rutledge, with whom three children. DIW DIL FDA

[ top ]

Literary Criticism
  • The Third Voice: Modern British and American Verse Drama (Princeton UP 1959) 286pp.;
  • ed., The Integrity of Yeats [Thomas Davis Lectures] (Cork: Mercier Press 1964), 70pp., and Do. [facs. rep. edn.] (Penn: Folcroft Library Edns. 1971), [3], 70pp.;
  • ed., with J. R. Mulryne, An Honoured Guest: New Essays on W. B. Yeats (London: Edward Arnold 1965), [8],196pp.;
  • Connoisseurs of Chaos: Ideas of Order in Modern American Poetry (London: Faber & Faber 1966), 254pp., and Do. [2nd edn.] (NY: Columbia U.P. 1984), [7], 293pp.;
  • ed., Swift Revisited [Thomas Davis Lectures] (Cork: Mercier Press 1968), 89pp.;
  • The Ordinary Universe: Soundings in Modern Literature (London: Faber 1968), 320pp.;
  • Jonathan Swift: A Critical Introduction (Cambridge UP 1969, 1971), viii, 235pp.;
  • William Butler Yeats [Modern Masters] (London: Fontana 1971), 139pp. and Do. (NY: Viking Press 1971), xiii, 160pp.;
  • Thieves of Fire [T. S. Eliot Memorial Lectures, 1972] (London: Faber & Faber 1973), 3-139pp. [on D. H. Lawrence, John Milton, William Blake, Herman Melville];
  • The Sovereign Ghost: Studies in Imagination [1st edn. California UP 1976] (London: Faber & Faber 1978), x, 229pp.;
  • Ferocious Alphabets (London: Faber 1981; Columbia UP 1984), xiv, 211pp.;
  • We Irish [as Selected Essays of Denis Donoghue, Vol.1] (Brighton: Harvester Press 1986), ix, 275pp. [available at Google Books - online; see also Hibernia article of that title, as infra];
  • Reading America: Essays on American Literature (NY: Knopf 1987; rep. California UP 1988), xii, 320pp.;
  • ed. [& transcribed], Memoirs [of] W. B. Yeats: Autobiography [and] First Draft Journal (London: Macmillan 1972, 1988), 318pp.;
  • England, Their England: Commentaries on English Language and Literature (NY: Knopf 1988; California UP 1989), x, 365pp.;
  • The Old Moderns: Essays on Literature and Theory (NY: A. A. Knopf 1994), xiv, 303pp.;
  • The Pure Good of Theory [Bucknell Lectures in Literary Theory] (Oxford: Blackwell 1992), viii, 146pp.;
  • Walter Pater: Lover of Souls (NY: Knopf 1995), viii, 364 pp.;
  • Words Alone: The Poet T. S. Eliot (New Haven 2001);
  • Adam’s Curse: Reflections on Religion and Literature (Notre Dame UP 2001), 188pp.;
  • Speaking of Beauty (Yale UP 2003), 209pp.
  • Irish Essays (Cambridge UP 2011), viii, 261pp. [see contents]
  • Metaphor (Harvard UP 2014), 240pp.
  • Warrenpoint (London: Jonathan Cape 1991; Syracuse UP 1994), 193pp., ports.
Shorter writings,
  • Emily Dickinson (Minnesota UP 1969) [monograph];
  • The American “Waste land” at 50’ in Art International, 16, 5 (1972), pp.61-64, 67 [i.e., Eliot’s poem];
  • ‘Yeats: The Question of Symbolism’, in Myth and Reality in Irish Literature, ed. Joseph Ronsley (Wilfred Laurier UP 1977), pp.99-115;
  • Imagination: The Twenty-fifth W. P. Ker Memorial Lecture [25th April 1974] (Glasgow UP 1974), 40pp.;
  • ‘Romantic Ireland,’ in A. Norman Jeffares, ed., Yeats, Sligo, and Ireland (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980), pp.17-30;
  • The Politics of Modern Criticism [Bennington Chapbooks in Literature] (Bennington College [1981], 31pp.;
  • The Arts Without Mystery [Reith Lecture, 1982] (London: BBC 1983), 151pp.;
  • with Desmond Guinness, Ascendancy Ireland [William Andrews Clark Memorial Library Seminar Papers, read on 28 September 1985] (W.A. Clark Mem. Lib. 1986);
  • ‘The Political Turn in Criticism’, in Irish Review , 5 (Autumn 1988) [q.pp.].
  • ‘Swift and the Association of Ideas’, in The Yearbook of English Studies, Vol. 18 [Pope, Swift, and Their Circle Special Number] (MHRA 1988), pp.1-17 [available at JSTOR - online].
  • Being Modern Together, intro. Ronald Schuchard [Emory Studies in Humanities, No. 2] (Atlanta: Scholars Press, [1991]), xv, 76pp.;
  • Who Says What [Lecture delivered on 21 January 1991], with The Question of Voice [Princess Grace Irish Library Lectures, No. 9] (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1992), 47pp.;
  • What Happens in Othello? [The Hilda Hulme Memorial Lecture, delivered on 6 Dec. 1993] (University of London 1994), 30pp.;
  • Three Ways of Reading [Lecture Delivered at the 69th General Meeting of ELSJ, 25th May 1997] (Tokyo: English Literary Society of Japan 1999), 33pp.
  • ed., Seven American Poets from MacLeish to Nemerov: An Introduction [Pamphlets on American Writers] (Minneapolis UP 1963), 329pp.;
  • ed., Jonathan Swift, A Critical Anthology (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1971);
  • Afterword to William Molyneux, The Case of Ireland Stated, intro. by J. G. Simms [Irish Writings from the Age of Swift, Vol. 5] (Dublin: Cadenus Press 1977), 148 pp., ill.;
  • review of Susan Sontag, Illness as Metaphor, in The New York Times (16 June 1978) [available online];
  • intro., Poems of R. P. Blackmur (Princeton UP [1977]), xxix, 153pp.;
  • with Robert W. Burchfield & Andrew Timothy, The Quality of Spoken English on BBC Radio: A Report (London: BBC 1979), 24pp.;
  • Pref. to Liam O’Flaherty, The Informer (NY: Harcourt & Brace 1980);
  • ed. & intro., Selected Essays of R. P. Blackmur (NY: Ecco Press 1985 1986), 372pp.;
  • with Leslie Berlowitz & Louis Menand, eds., America in Theory (NY & Oxford: OUP 1988), 302pp.;
  • annot., Complete Stories [of] Henry James [Library of America] (NY: Library of America 1996), ix, 946pp.;
  • intro., Henry James, The Golden Bowl [Everyman’s library, N.S., No.117] (London: D. Campbell 1992), xxxi, 596pp.;
  • The Practice of Reading (Yale UP 1998);
  • Introduction to The Third Policeman, by Flann O’Brien (Norman, IL: Dalkey Archive Press 1999), pp[i-]xiii.
  • intro., The Stories of J. F. Powers (NY: NY Review of Books 2000), xii, 570p.
  • review of The Water Babies: A Fairy Tale for a Land-Baby, by Charles Kingsley, ed. Brian Alderson, in The Irish Times (4 May 2013), Weekend, p.10 [see extract under J. H. Newman - infra].
  • review of biography of Kafka by Reiner Stach, trans. Shelley Frisch [I:The Decisive Years; II: The Yeats of Insight], in The Irish Times (21 Aug. 2013), Weekend Review, p.10 [see extract].
  • ‘The Motive for Metaphor’, in The Hudson Review (2013) [departing from Wallace Steven’s poem of that title] - available online.

Note: Donoghue has also written an introduction to an edition of Flann O’Brien’s The Third Policeman [poss. Dalkey Archive Press].

Critical interventions
  • ‘Bend Sinister’, in The Irish Times, 5 (June, 1965), p.8;
  • ‘On the Text of Ulysses’, being a review of Hans Walter Gabler, ed., Ulysses [rev. edn., 1984], Richard Ellmann, James Joyce [rev. edn., 1982], in London Review of Books, 20 Sept.-3 Oct. 1984 - as infra; rep. in We Irish, p.117ff.)
  • ‘We Irish’, in Hibernia, ([q.iss.] 1986), p.643 [cites Francis Stuart as being among Irish writers aggravated by politics to the point of turning their aggravation into verse and prose];
  • Review of “The Dead” [film] by John Huston, in The New York Review (3 March 1988), qpp.
  • ‘Is There a Case Against Ulysses?’, in Joyce in Context, ed. Vincent Cheng & Timothy Martin (Cambridge UP 1992), pp.19-39;
  • “Critical Theory” Issue of Times Literary Supplement (15 July 1994), pp.4-6 [lengthy discussion of literary theory].
Two online ...
  • ‘Fears for Irish Studies in an Age of Identity Politics’, in Chronicle of Higher Education, 44, 13 (21 Nov. 1997), B4f. [taking post-colonialist critics to task for inappropriate application of ‘identity politics’ to Irish literature; attached].
  • ‘Ireland, Race, Nation, State’ [Part 1], in Partisan Review, Vol. LXVI, No. 2 (1999), pp.223-34 [attached.]

Additional resources
New York Review of Books, 1965-2006 - reviews [see details].
Yeats [Fontana Modern Masters] (London: Fontana/Collins 1971) [see extract].

Numerous reviews in The New York Review of Books incl. ‘The Delirium of the Brave’, review of Eavan Boland, In a Time of Violence (26 May 1994) [‘Like everything else in Ireland, poetry is contentious. ...’; available at NYRB - online; see extract under Boland, supra.]

[ top ]

Bibliographical details

Irish Essays (Cambridge UP 2011), viii, 261pp. Part I - Ireland: Race, nation, state. Part II - On Swift: Reading Gulliver’s Travels; Swift and the association of ideas. Part III - On Yeats. Three Presences: Yeats, Eliot, Pound; The Occult Yeat; Yeats’s Shakespeare; Yeats: Trying to be Modern. Part IV - On Joyce. A plain approach to Ulysses -- Joyce, Leavis, and the Revolution of the Word. Part V - Other Occasions: Mangan; Beckett in Foxrock; William Trevor; John McGahern; The early Roddy Doyle.

[ top ]

Brian Caraher & Robert Mahony, eds., Ireland and Transatlantic Poetics: Essays in Honor of Denis Donoghue (Delaware UP 2007) [see contents].

Also John Wilson Foster, in Between Shadows: Modern Irish Writing and Culture (Dublin: IAP 2009), ‘Getting the North: Yeats and Northern Nationalism’ [Chap. 13], espec. pp.190-97: ‘Denis Donoghue’ [where he is compared with Seamus Deane and Seamus Heaney as Ulster critics; see extract].

Reviews incl. Michael Wood, "From Milton to McEwan: the beauty of metaphor", review of Metaphor, in The Irish Times (26 April 2014), "Weekend Review" - available online. [See David Krause, et al., under Commentary, infra.]

[ top ]

Bibliographical details
Brian Caraher
& Robert Mahony, eds., Ireland and Transatlantic Poetics: Essays in Honor of Denis Donoghue (Delaware UP 2007) [incls. keynote lecture by Colm Tóibín; other contribs. Caraher, (‘Speaking of Donoghue’), Mary Shine Thompson (‘From Donovan to Donoghue’), Bruce Stewart (‘James Joyce and the Envoy Writers’), Colin Graham (‘What Stalks Through Donoghue’s Irish Criticism’), Matthew Campbell (‘Figuring Irish Poetry’), Warwick Gould (‘Yeats, Bibliographical Opportunity and the Life of the Text’), Nicholas Allen (‘Absurdity, Extravagance and Irish Modernism’), John P. Harrington (‘Irish Players and American Reviewers’), Frank Kermode (‘Getting it Wrong’) [short titles].

[ top ]

David Krause
, ‘The De-Yeatsification Cabal’, in Irish Literary Supplement [Boston], Fall 1987; rep. in Jonathan Allison, Yeats’s Political Identities (Michigan UP 1996), pp.293-307: quotes Donoghue [as infra], and remarks on his ‘somewhat skeptical’ references to ‘the autonomy of the poem’ and ‘the Jamesian “donnée”’; asks ‘does Donoghue want us to believe that modern readers will only accept poet who are overtyly political and ideological’, and charges that ‘Donogue identifies and gives his imprimatur to two of the more shrill voices in the de-Yeatsification cabal [Seamus Deane and Declan Kiberd].’ (pp.294, 295, 296; &c.) Note: It would seem that Krause is omitting to notice the ironic means by which Donoghue accounts for and critiques the postcolonial tendency in Irish criticism.

Gerald Dawe, ‘Living in Our Time’, in Linen Hall Review (Summer 1990), pp.42-43, discusses new perspectives and revised editions from an Irish poet and two Irish critics, taking issue with Donoghue’s failure to get to grips with the Thatcherite era in Ireland in We Irish, Essays on Irish Literature and Society (?1990).

Terry Eagleton, review The Practice of Reading [Yale 1998], in Times Literary Supplement (29 Jan. 1999): ‘Donoghue is not such a doctrinaire formalist as to deny literary art i[t]s informing contexts. On the contrary, he is a somewhat shamefaced formalist who is far too consicous of the force of literary theory to present himself to the world as some sort of aesthetic redneck. One suspects from the odd touch of dyspepsia discernible in these graceful, lucid essays that he is actually rather more visceral about the matter than his good manners permit him to appear; the blandly eirenic tone betrays an occasional hint of steel. […]

Further: ‘For another thing, Donoghue seems not to recognise that what he means by “imaginative sympathies” is what some radical theorists mean by politics. Politics for them is a matter of working out the implications of such sympathies on a scale larger than the interpersonal, a terrain on which Donoghue is notably reluctant to tread. He is reluctant to do so because it seems to involve surrendering to abstract systems, which violate the delicvate particularity of which literature is so fine an instance.’ Eagleton commends a ‘superb reading of Gulliver’s Travels which notes that Swift created one of the most memorable figures in fiction by giving him no character at all.’ However, Donoghue ‘mistakes it for anything other than a piece of theory. Perhaps “theory” is a term one reserves for other people’s beliefs. Elsewhere in the book Donoghue thinks he sees a relation between theory and theology, in that both “make foundational claims”. In fact, this is a good deal truer of theology than it is of contemporary theory, which is ferociously critical of foundationalism. To this extent at least, the claims of theory are less absolutist than those of Donoghue’s theology. / If it is not true that theorists are always shoddy readers, neither is it true, as Donoghue would have it, that literary theory has damagingly neglected questions of aesthetic form. Indeed he himself cites a few theorists - Kant, Schiller, Adorno - who attend to precisely that. From the Russian Formalists to the French narratologists, Georg Lukacs to Mikhail Bakhtin, form has been a recurrent preoccupation of such thinkers. There is, for example, hardly a Marxist literary critic worth mentioning who fails to take the point of Luk acs ‘ s claim that literary form, not literary content, is where social ideologies are most subtly incarnated. Donoghue is really confusing the broad issue of aesthetic form with the narrower question of a feel for the language of literary works,a nd here he is on much firmer ground. […] There is no need, however, for theory and this mind of critical practice to be at odds.’

Eagleton ends making the point that ‘the roots of contemporary cultural theory lie in the feeling of certain social groups that their own concerns have been largely excluded from the common sense of society as a whole’, and suggests that the term ‘signifier’ generated in this context is really no stranger than the term ‘symbol’; ‘peole talk the way they do because it fits with what they need; and if your needs are being denied, as those of the Henry James Professor of English at New York University are on the whole not, then there is really not much choice about the matter at all.’ (p.27.)

R. B. Kershner, ‘The Culture of Ulysses’, in Joycean Cultures/Culturing Joyces, ed. Vincent J. Cheng, et al., (Delaware UP 1998), pp.149-61: A footnote makes ref. to Denis Donoghue’s essay, ‘Is There a Case Against Ulysses?’, in Cheng & Timothy Martin, eds., Joyce in Context (Cambridge UP 19992), pp.19-39 - with the remark: ‘[Denis Donoghue] discusses Kenner’s and [Frederic] Jameson’s readings from a related perspective, but I believe he seriously misreads Jameson’s essay.’ (Viz., Frederic Jameson, ‘Ulysses in History’, in James Joyce and Modern Literature, ed. W. J. McCormack & Alastair Stead, Routledge & Kegan Paul 1982, pp.126-41).

Adam Kirsch, reviewing of Denis Donoghue, Words Alone, The Poet T. S. Eliot (New Haven), in NY Times Review of Books ( 26 Nov. 2000), quotes: ‘Eliot’s genius took the form of the auditory more than the visual imagination … [his] language goes some distances towards giving words … independent life.’; Further, ‘The deepest quandary in Eliot’s poetry is his feeling, in part, that all the declared values of human life are somehow illusory and, in part, that nevertheless God so loved the world that He gave up for its redemption His beloved Son’; remarks that Donoghue sometimes allows his fine sense of these matters to be coarsened by controversy as when he offers the ‘querulous’ view that it ‘seems to me [Donoghue] and injustice that he [Eliot] is accused of anti-Semitism’; reviewer remarks that Eliot was occasionally anti-Semitic. See also review by Stephen Moore in Washington Post, Book World (16-20 Dec. 2000).

Frank Kermode, reviewing Words Alone, in The Irish Times (23 Dec. 2000), notes that Donoghue, ‘now a literary critic of the first rank, rightly exult[s] in his mature powers’ and retales the emphasis on Eliot’s belief: ‘it is a Sybilline, and as a Christian poet […] that Eliot has kept Donoghue’s allegiance. Further notes that what lies behind Donoghue’s devotion to Eliot is what Eliot himself called a ‘fiercely exclusive’ religious conviction, and that his defence of Eliot’s anti-semitism is of a piece with this, the latter being based on the belief that without religion there cannot be culture; quotes Eliot’s notion that ‘reasons of race and religion make any large number of free-thinking Jewds undesirable’ as creating the illusion that there can be; further cites Donoghue: ‘[Eliot] ascribes to the Word of God and to that alone, what the entire tradition of Romantic poetry has ascribed to the imagination’, and notes that a chapter in Words Alone is devoted to ‘the correction of Stevens’s heresies, not least those given such gorgeous expression in “Sunday Morning”.’

[ top ]

Stephen Medcalf, review of Adam’s Curse: Reflections on Religion and Literature (Notre Dame UP) [q. source]: Other than T. S. Eliot, the poets and writers dealt with at two-page length or longer in Donoghue’s book incl. John Crowe Ransom [sic], William Empson, Wallace Stevens, Henry Adams, Balthasar, Milbank, Levinas, William Lynch, Robert Bellah, Alasdair MacIntyre, Czeslaw Milosz, Seamus Heaney, Andrew Delbanco, Jean Baudrillard, Philip Larkin, J. M. Coetzee, T. S. Eliot, Yeas and Josipovici. Medcalf writes, ‘In religion, Donoghue is a committed but very liberal Catholic - so liberal as to doubt the wisdom of the promulgation as dogma of the Immaculate Conception […] In fact, as a reader of literature, there is a list in him to the “Catholic” side in Lewis’s sense.’ [See further under C. S. Lewis, infra.]

Angela Leighton, review of Denis Donoghue, Words Alone: The Poet T. S. Eliot, in Times Literary Supplement (9 Nov. 2001), p.14-15: ‘The title … suggests that Donoghue is returning to the argument about “aesthetic values” … Donoghue’s attributions of purity and impurity have an element of the arbitrary and didactic about them … at some point … Donoghue loses his formalist nerve … Donoghue enacts a conversion of his own, from aesthetic to spiritual criticism, from words to Word, from enjoying sense to trying to make it. … Admittedly, this change of tack is true to Eliot’s own career … [b]ut what is puzzling is that, instead of offering a detailed, Christian reading … the tone becomes didactic and quarrelsome … The root question, subject and problem of this book is not so much poetry, then, but belief.’ Leighton concludes, ‘In the end, this book convinces me of the opposite of its own conclusions. Eliot was not a great religious poet … His greatest poet understands, not religious belief, the passionate, personal ways of it, but the sham, the fake, the rhetorical gesture, the insincere pose.’ (p.15.)

John Wilson Foster, ‘Getting the North: Yeats and Northern Nationalism’, in Between Shadows: Modern Irish Writing and Culture, Dublin: IAP 2009) [Chap. 13 - section on Donoghue, pp.190-97]: ‘Yeats, Donoghue tells us, believed there is a special Irish mentality, deriving the idea partly from Berkeley, for whom “the Irish”, Donoghue concludes, meant powerless but prestigious upper-class Protestants. Donoghue calls the notion “bizarre” and reduces it to Berkeley’s wish to counter English philosophy. Yet Donoghue defends Yeats’s preoccupation with a distinctive Irishness against Deane’s attack in his Field Day pamphlets on the romantic mystique of nationhood, defending even the essentialism from which it issued. Indeed, Seamus Heaney, also a Field Day man, is shown to have the same preoccupation as recently as Station Island (1984). In “We Irish”, Donoghue is reluctant to concede the incoherence of Yeatsian Irishness to [Seamus] Deane, whom he stops at seeing as an anti-nationalist revisionist instead of a different kind of nationalist, which further inquiry would have revealed.’ [Cont.]

John Wilson Foster, ‘Getting the North: Yeats and Northern Nationalism’ (2009) - cont.: ‘Like Deane, Donoghue regards Joyce’s view of Irishness as an alternative to Yeats’s. He takes issue with Joyce’s ghost in Station Island (i.e., with Heaney) for telling Heaney that the issue of Irishness doesn’t matter, yet praises Stephen Dedalus in Portrait (i.e., Joyce) for riskily attempting to escape his Irishness. Donoghue concludes that there is a distinctive Irish experience but that it is an experience of proliferating “division”. / “We Irish” ends with a reminder that Berkeley lost interest in defining an Irish mentality and increasingly regarded himself as English. [191; ...] Yeats’s ambiguities (as Donoghue sees them) are analogues, as it were, of Donoghue’s own ambivalences on the matter of Yeats and Ireland. [...] In “Yeats: The Question of Symbolism” (1977), Yeats’s symbolism, with its attraction to essence and vision, is countered by “the scruple which prevented him from making his entire art with Symons and the Symbolists, that scruple arising from ”the roughage of daily experience, chance, choice and industry.” (We Irish, pp.39, 44.)’ [Cont.]

John Wilson Foster, ‘Getting the North: Yeats and Northern Nationalism’ (2009) - cont.: ‘Donoghue attempts on Yeats’s behalf to resolve these ambiguities. He sees Yeats as a legendizer, legend being the middle term between symbolist and history, and between essence and existence: Yeats absorbs history into his own history, situating himself between contraries.’ (pp.191-92.) Further: ‘Latitudinarianism and sequestration are defensive concepts Donoghue has been forced to deploy to defend Yeats against his hostile readers, amongst whom he has counted the Field Day writers (wrongly) as pluralists and revisionists, left-leaning anti-authoritarianists.’ (p.193.) Foster discusses Donoghue’s engagement with ‘ideologues’ [.e., post-structuralism] in ‘Doing Things with Words: Criticism and the Attack on the Subject’ (Times Literary Supplement, 15 July 1994, pp.4-6; Foster, p.193f.)

David Wheatley, reviewing The Literature of Ireland by Terence Brown, in The Irish Times (21 Aug. 2010), [Weekend Review, p.1], writes: ‘In a 1982 review of McDowell and Webb’s history of Trinity College, Denis Donoghue complained of the resentment he felt as a young lecturer at University College Dublin of the “complacency” of Trinity’s ethos, “its easy and unearned assumption of superiority”. A history of the Irish professoriat might well abound in tenured idlers, but that is one academic club whose membership will never be open to this long-time head of the school of English at Trinity College. Nevertheless, to read The Literature of Ireland is to be reminded of the many changes to have befallen his chosen academic discipline in the past few decades. In 1966, he recalls, the Renaissance scholar Philip Edwards planned with Frank O’Connor to introduce an Irish-studies course at Trinity College. Edwards’s departure and O’Connor’s death put paid to the idea, which did not become a reality until 2007.

[ top ]

Yeats [Fontana Modern Masters] (London: Collins 1971): ‘The tone of the argument is rueful. In the “Fragment” it is sharpened, one apprehension set against another, a drama rather than a lament. The poem enacts the defeat of Berkeley and Blake by Locke’s abstraction. Locke sank into the swoon of abstraction, more diagram than body. Marshall McLuhan argues in The Gutenberg Galaxy that “the Lockean swoon was the hypnotic trance induced by stepping up the visual component in experience until it filled the field of attention. At such a moment, the garden (the interplay of all the senses in haptic harmony) dies.” [McLuhan, The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographical Man, London: Routledge &c., 1962, p.17.] The justification of this gloss is an elaborate argument, not yet settled one way or the other, to the effect that the printing press reduced the several modes of perception to one, the other senses being, as it were anaesthetized. Blake supports the argument, castigating Bacon, Newton and Locke for their “single vision”. The single vision is the “point of view”, where the observer is trapped before the observed scene, experience is congealed, restricted to those items which the observer sees from his fixed positio; he might as well, be deaf and dumb. The God of the Industrial Revolution took Locke’s primary qualities out of his side, thereby ensuring that man would always be alone among machines: the parody of the creation of Eve goes at least as far as that, God made her lest Adam be alone. The effect of Locke’s swoon and Newton’s sleep is the loss of that entire world of experience for which the appropriate metaphors are organic, vegetal, bodily, nuptial.’ (Ibid., pp.53.-54.)

Yeats (1971) [cont.]: ‘Think of modern aesthetics, with politics half in mind. The single article of faith which goes undisputed in the Babel of modern criticism is the primacy of the creative imagination. It bloweth where it listeth, indisputable and imperious, it gives no quarter. In extreme versions, it concedes no rights to nature, history, other people, the world of natural forms is grist to its mill. It is strange that we have accepted such an authoritarian notion in aesthetics while professing to be scandalized by its equivalent in politics. The poet is free to deal with nature as he wishes, whatever form the imposition takes. The point is not answered by saying that a political act has immediate consequences in the lives of ordinary people, while an aesthetic act is merely virtual, and affects nobody. What is in question is an attitude to life, whatever we wish to say further about the relation between attitude and act. The freedom conceded to the poet’s imagination is fundamental in European Romanticism, represented accurately enough by Coleridge. The modern understanding of imagination assumes that order is imposed upon experience by those exceptional men, the few, capable of doing so: that it is natural for such men to do so, as an act issues from a prior capacity. It would be possible, I suppose, to devise an aesthetic which would consort with a democratic politics, but no such aesthetic has flourished in modern literature. If you start with the imagination, you propose an élite of exceptional men; their special quality is power of vision. The relation between this élite and the masses [121] is bound to be a critical relation, and it is likely to proceed by authority. We proceed in this direction when we speak of a play in terms of the hero; or, as in Yeats, when everything in the drama culminates in the hero. Even when Yeats writes of ostensibly historical events, he cannot prevent the authoritarian note from sounding, it comes from the aesthetic part of his mind. In “The Tragic Generation” he describes how ‘somewhere about 1450, though later in some parts of Europe by a hundred years or so’, men came to Unity of Being; ‘and as men so fashioned held places of power, their nations had it too, prince and ploughman sharing that thought and feeling’. ‘Whatafterwards showed for rifts and cracks were there already,’ he says, ‘but imperious impulse held all together.’ [ Autobiographies , p.291.] Now it is possible, but unrewarding, to read these sentences as historical comment; their true bearing is aesthetic, they refer to art, pattern, order, tension, form, and are best received in that spirit. ‘Imperious’ begins as a term of aesthetic power, and Yeats is then pleased to find, in the historical world, a corresponding empire of feeling.’ (pp.121-22; ; for full chapter-texts, see Ricorso Library, “Critical Classics” [infra].)

[ top ]

Denis Donoghue examines the new edition of ‘Ulysses’, in London Review of Books (20 Sept. 1984), pp.14-15.

Ulysses: A Critical and Synoptic Edition by James Joyce, edited by Hans Walter Gabler, Wolfhard Steppe and Claus Melchior. Garland, 1919 pp, $200.00, May 1984, ISBN 0 8240 4375 8; James Joyce by Richard Ellmann, Oxford, 900 pp, £8.95, March 1984, ISBN 0 19 281465 6.

Joyce’s Ulysses was published on his 40th birthday, 2 February 1922, in a limited edition of 1000 numbered copies. The text was full of misprints, as Joyce irritatedly knew. As late as November, he had been tinkering with the last chapters, getting further detail from Dublin – ‘Is it possible for an ordinary person to climb over the area railings of No 7 Eccles Street, either from the path or the steps, lower himself down from the lowest part of the railings till his feet are within 2 feet or 3 of the ground and drop unhurt?’ he wrote to his Aunt Josephine – and the galleys were demanding attention he couldn’t give them. On 6 November he complained to Harriet Shaw Weaver that ‘working as I do amid piles of notes at a table in a hotel I cannot possibly do this mechanical part with my wretched eye and a half.’ He evidently decided that he couldn’t do much about the printer’s errors in time for the birthday, but he hoped they would be corrected ‘in future editions’.

Joyce wrote Ulysses by hand, and his arrangements for having the manuscripts typed were so loose that errors were inevitable. Some of the typists thought the writing would be improved by more orthodox punctuation. Further errors were made in the printing-press. None of the compositors at Dijon knew English, except for the foreman, Maurice Hirchwald, who knew only enough to decide that he could correct Joyce’s vagaries. Joyce tried to undo some of this damage, but the job was too much for him. He corrected thousands of misprints on the galleys, but missed about two thousand.

Later editions of Ulysses haven’t been much better. Between 1922 and 1933, the book couldn’t be published legally in the United States, so there was no merit in doing heavy work on the text. When Judge John Woolsey lifted the ban on the book – 6 December 1933 – Bennett Cerf set about issuing a new edition. But the text he gave his printers was a copy of Samuel Roth’s facsimile pirated edition, printed in New York: its errors remained to corrupt Cerf’s Random House edition of January 1934.

I needn’t recite the history of the publication of Ulysses in England. The gist of the whole matter is that the editions which most people read, the Penguin ‘reprinted with corrections’ in 1971 and the Random House Vintage Books edition, ‘corrected and reset’ in 1961, are about equally erroneous: seven errors to a page, according to Professor Gabler’s count. Some misprints are common to both editions, but each edition has its own errors, too.

On 6 December 1966 Jack Dalton gave a lecture at Cornell University on the text of Ulysses, quoting several instances of its corruption, and promising to produce, on contract to Random House, a new and satisfactory edition. In the event, he didn’t live to keep his promise, and the work passed to a team of bibliographers, led by Professor Gabler.

The main problem in devising a reliable text of Ulysses is that there is no complete manuscript. For some chapters there are drafts, jottings, notebooks, the British Library Note-sheets, fair copies – the most important things are in the Rosenbach Manuscript at Philadelphia, and other collections at Cornell, Buffalo and other universities. Rosenbach is the crucial holding, its holograph notation, as Gabler says, ‘marks a decisive point of consolidation in the compositional development’. But it doesn’t solve every textual problem. For one thing, Rosenbach is ‘full of erasures indicating revisions during the fair-copying’. For another, Joyce continued to work on chapters even after he had given the manuscript to a typist: he did not let the typescript go without further ado to the printer.

Gabler’s aim has been ‘to uncover and to undo the first edition’s textual corruption’. His main principle has been to distinguish ‘the documents of composition’ – which he regards as authoritative, unless they can be shown to be faulty – from ‘the documents of transmission’ – which he regards as potentially faulty, unless they can be proved to be authoritative. So Joyce’s autographs are separated from the typescripts, the serial versions in the Little Review and the Egoist, the proofs of the first edition, and the first edition itself. But the distinction is hard to maintain, since transmission becomes composition as soon as Joyce tinkers with it. In any case, Gabler has tried to assemble, as his copytext, ‘a continuous manuscript text for Ulysses, extending over a sequence of actual documents’. His principle is a narrative one, as if he were reconstructing a story. Or an archaeological one, deducing a complete structure from related fragments. In the new edition, the left-hand pages record the entire history of each word and accidental, so far as it can be established and indicated by a complicated system of notation: the right-hand pages give the clean text of the book without interruption or comment. Textual explanations and justifications are set out at the end.

I’ll give a few examples, in a minute, of the differences the new edition makes. But it’s worth saying at once that they’re not merely a matter of correcting ‘Steeeeeeeeeephen’ to ‘Steeeeeeeeeeeephen’ in the Telemachus chapter and ‘Pprrpffrrppfff’ to ‘Pprrpffrrppffff’ in the Sirens chapter, as Craig Raine pretended to think a few weeks ago in the Sunday Times. If you are totally indifferent to misprints, you won’t even consider buying or otherwise consulting the new Ulysses. ‘On the whole,’ Raine claimed, about misprints, ‘I couldn’t give a fuppenny tuck.’ Not even if the botched printing were of his own verses? More to the point: suppose it were discovered that the printing of Paradise Lost is botched, with lines and half-lines dropped, wouldn’t English poets, critics, and common readers agree that a new edition should be produced, especially if the hard labour involved were to be done, as it probably would be, by German or American scholars?


—Full article available at London Review of Books [online; accessed 21.06.2015].

[ top ]

We Irish: Essays in Irish Literature and Society (1986) - “Spirit of Yeats” [chap.]: ‘[But] it is remarkable how persuasive the spirit is, and how determinedly Yeats’s poems draw an entire life - his own - toward a centre of power, whether its official name is passion, energy, will, or imagination. The life is various and eventful in its own right, but it is not allowed to press a claim until the formal requirements of the poem are satisfied. The relation between feeling and form is not allowed to run loose. If Yeats’s poems have a common style, it may be recognised by this sign, that it treats the relation between experience and poetry as that of servant and master. The reader, too, is kept in his place, demeanour is important because the relation between the poet and the reader is severe. It is not required of this style that it humble itself in order to be forgiven. The words are tokens of authority, and the only choice available to the reader is to accept or reject them. When we feel that a poem by Yeats is arrogant, we recognise the terms in which it is offered and we think them offensive. It is a requirement that we bend the knee. But arrogance is merely the extreme limit of his common tone: the sense of power is the most pervasive sense at work in the poems. / More specifically, I would maintain that Yeats delights in conflict, because it is a mode of power. His imagination loves to cause trouble starting quarrels between one value and another. His mind is restless with finality, because finality is peace or death.’ (p.16.) ‘He thought of experience as, potentially, a dramatic poem: circumstances the matter, conflict and imagination the instruments, poetry the end.’ (p.17.) [Cont.]

We Irish [... &c.] (1986) - “Spirit of Yeats” [chap.] - cont.: ‘Yeats’s desire was to stir people into a sense of their participation in an Ireland that had expressed itself long before Patrick directed the Irish imagination into one channel.’ (p.29.) ‘There is no need for us to deconstruct the ideology of Romantic Ireland; the work of irony and scepticism has already been done by Joyce.’ (p.32.) ‘A full account of Joyce’s work in the deconstruction of romantic Ireland would go from these poems to the little tetchiness between Gabriel Conroy and Miss Ivors on the subject of Ireland and the Irish language in The Dead, and from here to many pasages in the Portrait, Ulysses, and Finnegans Wake. Such an account would eventually begin to deconstruct itself, and would find Joyce baptised by desire, as deeply as by revulsion, in the naiveté he would officially expose. It is a conclusion almost foregone and foretold: that Romantic Ireland is a set of values espoused, promoted, bought and sold in the market-place, subjected to an adversary rhetoric from Joyce to Austin Clarke, endlessly deconstructed, and yet, even now, not entirely annulled. Sequestered, rather. [&c.]’ (q.p.; first printed in A. Norman Jeffares, ed., Yeats, Sligo, and Ireland, Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe, 1980.) [Cont.]

We Irish [... &c.] (1986) - cont.: ‘When I first read Yeats, Eliot, Pound, and the other major modern poets, I was admonished to respect what was called “the autonomy of the poem.” It was not clear to me what precisely I was to respect, except in the rudimentary sense that a poem is not the same as the arguments it appears to advance. I was also aware of Henry James’s assertion that the reader must concede to the artist his donnée; and even if James merely meant that the novelist should be free to take up any theme or subject he chooses, I took him to mean, in addition, that he should be free to adopt toward his theme gr subject pretty much whatever attitude suited him. Put these sentiments together and you quickly find that they insist on giving the artist whatever latitude he seems to ask for.’ Further, ‘Yeats’s poetry, in that context [of artistic latitude], caused a difficulty at two points. The political attitudes implicit or explicit in his last poems seemed so outlandish that it was hard to extend to them the hospitality 1 readily extended to attitudes in Eliot or Stevens. The second problem arose from Yeats’s dealings with the magic and [294] occult interests generally, from what Auden called the Southern California element in a number of Yeats’s poems.’ (pp.294-95.) [Cont.]

We Irish [... &c.] (1986) - cont.: ‘Readers are no longer willing to give poets the latitude they ask for, especially when political attitudes are in question. We seem to be at the end of the period in which the theory of literature was construed in philosophical terms. Our setting is now much more overtly political. Issues are named as ideological as soon as they are recognized as issues at all.’ ‘One of the consequences of this critical setting is that Yeats’s poems are now given little or no lattitude; especially in Ireland … In Ireland, a revisionist reading of Yeats is offered by Seamus Deane, Declan Kiberd, and other critics, abroad, by critics so diverse that it would be misleading even to name them. Most of them are affronted, in Ireland and elsewhere, by Yeats’s sense of history as the deeds of great men: and of culture, as, in this respect, indistinguishable from history.’ (p.296.) (Quoted in David Krause, ‘The De-Yeatsification Cabal’, rep. in Jonathan Allison, Yeats’s Political Identies, Michigan UP 1996, pp.294-296; with remarks, as supra.)

We Irish [... &c.] (1986): ‘It there is a distinctive Irish experience, it is one of division, exacerbated by the fact that division in a country so small seems perverse. But the scale doesn’t matter. At various times, the division has taken these forms: Catholic and Protestant, Nationalist and Unionist, Ireland and England. North and South, the country and the one bloated city of Dublin, Gaelic Ireland and Anglo-Ireland, the comfortable and the poor, farmers and P.A.Y.E workers, pro-Treaty and anti-Treaty, child and parents, the Irish and the English languages, the visible Ireland and the hidden Ireland, landlord and tenant, the Big House and the hovel. To which it is now necessary to add: a defensive church and an increasingly secular state, Irish law and European law.’ (We Irish; q.p.; quoted in Elmer Andrews, ‘The Poetry of Derek Mahon: ‘places where a thought might grown’, from Contemporary Irish Poetry: Collection of Critical Essays, ed. Andrews, Dublin: Macmillan 1992, ,p.1.)

[ top ]

On James Clarence Mangan ...

‘I hate thee, Djaun Bool’, review of Selected Writings of James Clarence Mangan, by Sean Ryder; The Collected Works of James Clarence Mangan, ed. Jacques Chuto, et al., [... &c.], in London Review of Books (March 2005), pp.21-22; rep. in Irish Essays (Cambridge 2011), ), pp.193-200.

On 15 February 1902, James Joyce, aged 20, read a paper on James Clarence Mangan to the Literary and Historical Society of what is now University College, Dublin. It was a brash performance. Joyce spoke as if he were introducing an unknown poet, and chose to ignore the facts that there were several collections of Mangan’s poems at large and that his life and work had been extensively written about. ‘Mangan has been a stranger in his country,’ Joyce claimed, ‘a rare and unsympathetic figure in the streets, where he is seen going forward alone like one who does penance for some ancient sin.’ Joyce was evidently more interested in Mangan’s temperament than in his poems and essays: Mangan’s ‘purely defensive reserve’, he said, ‘is not without dangers for him, and in the end it is only his excesses that save him from indifference’. Joyce recalled the passage, then already famous, in which Walter Pater completed his ‘imaginary portrait’ of Watteau: ‘He has been a sick man all his life. He was always a seeker after something in the world that is there in no satisfying measure, or not at all.’ Swaying to Pater’s cadences, Joyce said of Mangan that he was

weaker than Leopardi, for he has not the courage of his own despair but forgets all ills and forgoes his scorn at the showing of some favour. He has, perhaps for this reason, the memorial he would have had – a constant presence with those that love him – and bears witness, as the more heroic pessimist bears witness against his will to the calm fortitude of humanity, to a subtle sympathy with health and joyousness which is seldom found in one whose health is safe.

Joyce’s portrait is entirely sympathetic, as if he saw in Mangan’s life a companionable image of his own wretchedness in Dublin, falling from domestic comfort into a state close to destitution.

James Mangan – ‘Clarence’ was a later addition – was born in Dublin on 1 May 1803, ‘amid scenes of blasphemy and riot’, if we are to credit a fragment of autobiography he wrote in the last months of his life. As epigraph to that bizarre document, Mangan quoted two lines he claimed to have found in Philip Massinger, though no one else has found them there: ‘A heavy shadow lay/On that boy’s spirit: he was not of his fathers.’ Mangan was the second son of James Mangan and his wife, Catherine. His father, for a time a teacher in a hedge school, married into a fairly successful grocery and spirits business and soon put an end to its prosperity. In 1810 the boy started school at Saul’s Court, a Jesuit establishment, but before long he was moved to another school and then another, probably because his parents thought he was eccentric, if not demented. In 1818, to support them, he was apprenticed as a scrivener to the first of several law firms. In his autobiography he blamed his father for his woes:

He was of an ardent and forward-bounding disposition, and, though deeply religious by nature, he hated the restraints of social life, and seemed to think that all feelings with regard to family connections, and the obligations imposed by them, were totally beneath his notice. Me, my two brothers and my sister, he treated habitually as a huntsman would treat refractory hounds. It was his boast, uttered in pure glee of heart, that we ‘would run into a mouse-hole’ to shun him … To him I owe all my misfortunes.

‘And in the lowest deep a lower deep’, to quote one of Mangan’s favourite lines from Paradise Lost.

See further at London Review on Books - online [accessed 26.12.2012]

[ top ]

What Was Lost: Can a biography of W. B. Yeats rely on historical facts alone?’, review of R. F. Foster, W. B. Yeats: A Life, Vol. 2, in Harper’s Magazine (Dec. 2003), pp.95-102: ‘The persons and events that Yeats presented [in Autobiographies] were those that pressed most insistently on his memory, but nothing was merely transcribed. The particular quality of recall he trusted was what Pater called “the finer sort of memory,” which brings “its object to mind with a great clearness, yet, as somethig happens in dreams, raised a little above itself, and above ordinary retrospect.” Similarly, Yeats prescribed the cast of characters in his drama and presented each of them in a strongly realised pose, above ordinary retrospect. He had a gift for transcending himself and for seeing the possibility that other people might transcend themselves, as did the leaders of the Easter Rising […] He alaso varied the tones of his recollections by invoking different genres of narrative, so that even when he recalls the same people, as he often does, he writes of them differently, following the formal bias of the chosen genre.’ (p.98, &c; see further under Foster, infra.)

Partition of Ireland: Review of Terry Eagleton, Heathcliff and the Great Hunger, in The New Republic (21 & 28 Aug. 1995), pp.42-45: commences with a comical recitation of the plot of the play Saints and Scholars, on Connolly, and proceeds to chastise the author for excesses in his argument, but concludes: ‘It indicts Britain for centuries of neglect, condescension, and folly. Nothing new in that … But Eagleton’s book raises these issues at an awkward time, when many commentators on Irish history and culture are settling for a spiritless form of revisionism…. I wish the present “peace process” every success, but in the meantime I continue to think that partition of Ireland as a wretched in principle and abominable in its practice. I don’t regard the cause of Irish unity as worth a drop of anyone’s blood, so I deplore the military and paramilitary actions which have taken place in Northern Ireland. I have little hope of seeing Ireland united in peace, but I dearly wish I might, and I would pray for it if I thought prayer would help.’ (p.45; see further under Eagleton, RX.)

Declan Kiberd: Reviewing Declan Kiberd, Inventing Ireland (Irish Times, 1. Nov. 1995), “Weekend”, Donoghue expresses the belief that self-begetting and an utterly open future is so much cant; self-reliance is a different value and a greater one [quotes Emerson]; ends: ‘Kiberd might agreed [with Heaney’s Joyce in Station Island] about the “subject people stuff”, but his book, like Fanon’s nationalism, keeps us bound to its vocabulary.’ (p.8.)

The Irish experience: ‘It there is a distinctive Irish experience, it is one of division, exacerbated by the fact that division in a country so small seems perverse. But the scale doesn’t matter. At various times, the division has taken these forms: Catholic and Protestant, Nationalist and Unionist, Ireland and England. North and South, the country and the one bloated city of Dublin, Gaelic Ireland and Anglo-Ireland, the comfortable and the poor, farmers and P.A.Y.E workers, pro-Treaty and anti-Treaty, child and parents, the Irish and the English languages, the visible Ireland and the hidden Ireland, landlord and tenant, the Big House and the hovel. To which it is now necessary to add: a defensive church and an increasingly secular state, Irish law and European law.’ (We Irish; q.p.; quoted in Elmer Andrews, ed., Contemporary Irish Poetry: Collection of Critical Essays, Dublin: Macmillan 1992, p.1.)

Irish Essences: ‘The aesthetic heritage with which we still struggle clearly harbours the desire to obliterate or render nugatory the problems of class, economics, bureaucratic systems and the like, concentrating instead upon the essence of self, nationhood, community and Zeitgeist. If there is any politics to be associated with such an aesthetic, it is the politics of Fascism. It is again surprising that this clear implication should pass almost unnoticed in the body of contemporary Irish writing and in the scattered convictions which so many writers still possess about the so-called autonomy of the imagination.’ (‘Literary Myths of the Revival’, in Ronsley, Myth and Reality in Irish Literature, Laurier UP, 1977, p.322; quoted in Andrews, op. cit., p.7.)

[ top ]

Louis MacNeice: Reviewing Alan Heuser, ed., Selected Literary Criticism of Louis MacNeice (London Review of Books, 23 April 1987), Donoghue writes: ‘I agree with Thomas Kinsella’s view, in his Introduction to The New Oxford Book of Irish Verse (1986) that the “Northern Ireland Renaissance” is “largely a journalistic entity”.’ (Quoted in Anthony Roche, ‘A Reading of Autumn Journal: The Question of Louis MacNeice’s Irishness’, in Text and Context, Autumn 1988, pp.71-90; pp.74-75). Note: Peter McDonald replied to Donoghue in the issue of 21 May, while Edna Longley replied on 4 June, asking if Donoghue’s ‘own Irishness is of a kind that does not - will not? - admit MacNeice’s.’ (Roche, op. cit.)

Ireland, Race, Nation, State’ [Part 1], in Partisan Review, Vol. LXVI, No. 2 (1999), pp.223-34 [gives autobiographical details]: ‘a notional allegiance to Irish, a language we laboured to learn’ [224]; ‘my memory has been shown to be fallible’ [224]; on Thomas Davis’s ballad: ‘I should have wondered why Ireland, to become a nation rather than a province, must exhibit the bravery of Greece and Rome.’ (p.225); quotes Matthew Arnold: ‘the shrunken and diminished remains of this great primitive race […] failure to reach any material civilisation sound and satisfying, and not out at the elbows, poor slovenly, and half-barbarous.’ [225]; Arnold chose for his epigraph [in Lectures on Celtic Literature] a line from Macpherson’s Poems of Ossian: ‘they went forth to the war, but they always fell.’ [226]; their genius counted for something ‘in the inward world of thought and science [but for nothing] in the outward and visible world of material life.’ Arnold said in 1887 that the Irish could be ‘a nation poetically only, not politically’; Arnold endorsed a Henry Martin’s claim that the Celts were ‘always ready to react against the despotism of fact’ [227]. In his essay ‘The Incompatibles’, Arnold noted that England had ‘completely failed to attach Ireland’, and that ‘We find ourselves the object of glowing fierce, unexplained hatred on the part of the Irish people’; he urged Ireland to ‘acquiesce in the English connection by good and just treatment’; ‘the equitable treatment of Catholicism’ in regard to education. [Cont.]

Ireland, Race, Nation, StatePartisan Review (1999): George Moore call Ireland ‘a primitive country and barbarous people’ in Parnell and His Island; acc. Donoghue, Moore ‘tormented ‘the Irish’ for the grim fun of it’ [228-29]. On Joyce: There is no reason to think that he is being ironic at Stephen Dedalus’s expense when he has him exclaim: “I go to encounter the reality of experience and to forge ... the uncreated conscience of my race.” It is possible to read that declaration ironically, but the irony soon becomes ashamed of itself.’ [229]. On Yeats: ‘Yeats’s main achievement in his early poems, plays, and essays was to bring to composition and form a plethora of national desires that hardly knew themselves to be desires. He told many Irish men and women what they felt, what they wanted, and the more strenuous things they should now want.’ It was an [229] achievement the more remarkable because he spoke from the experience of a social class in decline, the Protestant professional class of parsons and businessmen, and he thought to arouse from their sleep a people mainly Roman Catholic, a type he always disliked and in his later years feared.’ (pp.229-30.) [Cont.]

Ireland, Race, Nation, StatePartisan Review (1999) - cont.: ‘Some scholars of nationalism present it as a discursive formation without any ground in one’s actual experience. I find this an implausible argument. At least in Ireland, the nationalist conviction has not begun or ended in words; it has been provoked by issues of land, ownership, tenancy, the famine, and apparently continuous humiliation.’ (p.230.) ‘Yeats emphasised Unity of Race … It is regularily maintained that he posited for the Irish people a fixed identity, as if such a quality were independent of circumstances and forces. I don’t think he did. His reflections on race, type, and national character seem to me not at all essentialist. He always allows for mobility by making every postulate yield to the transforming power of one’s imagination. He submits the ostensibly fixed conception of nature, history, character, self, and origin to subjective transformation, such that they become forms of freedom, gesture, personality, and style. Irish identity is what he wants to create, by many acts of summoning and conjuring; it is not deemed to be already there in a fixed form.’ (p.233).[…] Further: ‘The problem was not how to consume the world but how to make this apparently opaque thing appear to be transfigured, become transparent by virtue of one’s imagination ...’ (p.234; end; to be continued in Partisan Review, LXVI, 3, Summer 1999.)

[ top ]

Words Alone’ [feature-article at publication of Words Alone: The Poet T. S. Eliot, in The Irish Times (16 Dec. 2000), p.12: incl. biog. details; Warrenpoint; UCD, Latin and English; soon entered Royal Irish Academy to study Lieder [singing] with Brian Boydell; narrates break-down of his friendship with Donald Davie, triggered by the sentence, ‘the relation between Davie’s mind and its contents has always been experimental’ in a review of the latter’s second work on Pound.

Speaking of Beauty (2003): ‘My aim is not to reach a charlification, worse still a premature one, but to suggest how words and sentences about beauty may be construed in different contexts, many of them hard to live up to. Taking beauty seriously has long been a difficult enterprise mainly because it has been an equivocal value. Going back as far a Plato and in Greek thought generally, it was not found necessary to distinguish with any insistence the beautiful, the true, and the good.’ (Quoted in Noelle King, review of Speaking of Beauty, in Studies, Summer 2004, p.243.)

Fiction and Fact’, interview, in The Village (2 Dec. 2004): speaks of inspiration for Slammerkins in Hester Lynch Thrale Piozzi’s diary Thraliana recording love-triangle between Eliza Farren, the Earl of Derby and Anne Damer; discusses necessity for ‘endless’ research and the option of ‘mak[ing] it up’. Remarks: ‘My writing style really varies according to what the book requires, so these two books [Slammerkin and Life Mask] are deliberately very visual, probably more than my others […] whatever I do is deliberate! - those patterns of imagery don’t just emerge by accident.’ (See [online].)

[See also Donoghue’s response to Conor Cruise O’Brien’s charge of Fascism against Yeats in ‘Passion and Cunning: An Essay on the Politics of W. B. Yeats’, in A. N. Jeffares & K. W. Cross, eds., In Excited Reverie (1965) - under O’Brien, infra.]

Franz Kafka: review of biography of Kafka by Reiner Stach, trans. Shelley Frisch [I:The Decisive Years; II: The Yeats of Insight], in The Irish Times (21 Aug. 2013), Weekend Review, p.10: ‘Many attempts have been made to propose ultimate values that Kafka might be supposed to endorse, notably religion, metaphysics, politics and society. To no convincing avail. Reverting to Walter Benjamin’s sentence about divesting the human gesture of its traditional supports, the first one that Kafka divested was what Lionel Trilling called “the world in its ordinary actuality ... as we know it socially, politically, erotically, domestically”. / The second one was the respect the traditional novel accords to character. There are no characters in Kafka’s fiction; there are only forces that collide, bouncing off each other. These forces are what they are; they do not develop as characters develop, by achieving some degree of self-understanding or by the impact of one character on another. In The Castle K is cheeky, and that is nearly his only quality. The relation between K and Frieda is not a relation at all; it is the operancy of two forces, differing in intensity but in no other respect. It might make sense as the interaction of agents in chemistry or biology. / The third divestiture was the bearing of morality. The question of morality arises no more with K and Frieda than it does with Punch and Judy. Neither of them has a conscience. The show ends when the puppeteer has had enough; he brings it to an end without regard to justice or the moral imperative. So does Kafka. He is not great in the organisation of vast materials: comparison with Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Stendhal, James or George Eliot is off the point. Kafka’s novels come to an end when he can think of no good reason to have them continue. / He is a writer of extraordinary force when the issue is power, but even then he has a short breath. [...]’. (Available at The Irish Times - online; accessed 30.10.2013.)

[ top ]

Augustine Martin, ‘What Stalked in the Post Office?’ ([1977], rep. in Crane Bag Book, 1982), criticises Donoghue inter alia, especially for his notion of Yeats’s ‘hysteria of the imagination’ in later poems (see Integrity of Yeats, 1971; p.126).

Romantic Ireland,’ in A. Norman Jeffares, ed., Yeats, Sligo, and Ireland (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980), pp.17-30, professes that Yeats hoped the broken tradition of Ireland might still be mended (p.25).

False premises: Bernard O’Donoghue, review of Stephen Coote, W. B. Yeats (1997), in TLS (19 Sept. 1997), remarks a digression based on the mistranscription of ‘Kent’ for ‘Kew’ in Denis Donoghue’s edn. of the Memoirs; he adds, ‘it is worth remembering that biography, practised in this way, is as happy dealing in fictions as in facts.’

Reading in the dark: Donoghue writes that Seamus Deane reads a poems by Yeats ‘as if it were an editorial in a newspaper.’ (‘The Political Turn of Criticism’, in Irish Review, 5, Autumn 1988, p.59.)

[ top ]