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'We Irish' in Europe
Yeats, Berkeley and Joseph Hone

W.J. Mc Cormack (author)
Publication date:
1st March 2010

Author Biography

W. J. Mc Cormack retired as Professor of Literary History at Goldsmiths College (University of London) in 2002. For some years he has concentrated on biography, including Fool of the Family: A Life of J. M. Synge (2000). In 2005, he published a political biography Blood Kindred: W. B. Yeats, the Life, the Death, the Politics which treated at length the poet's relations with Nazi Germany and his interest in French royalist authoritarianism. He is currently writing a life of the Ulster poet, John Hewitt. Since 2006, he has been Keeper at the Edward Worth Library (1733), Dublin. As the poet Hugh Maxton, he was elected a member of Aosdana in the 1980s, and published his first novel, Twenty16 Vision, in 2009.


W.B. Yeats went to great lengths to design his self-image which biographers have been slow to challenge. Following on from "Blood Kindred" (2005), Mc Cormack's new study of the poet's idealist views concentrates on the role of J.M. Hone in introducing him to George Berkeley's philosophy in the mid 1920s and to contemporary Italian thinkers such as Giovanni Gentile and Mario Manlio Rossi. The notion of sacrifice is examined and, by way of contrast, work by Synge, George Moore and Samuel Beckett is shown to challenge the demand for sacrifice which underlies many powerful philosophies of culture. This is a detailed and yet wide-ranging critique of twentieth-century Irish literature, illuminating both well-known and obscure figures.