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.
1 Non-Reflective Vision
1.1 Logic or panic
1.2 George Berkeley in Europe
1.3 Yeats and German thought in the 1930s
2 Fate, Myth and the absolute
2.1 Italy and the enigma of 'Hone and Rossi'
2.2 'Good strong blows are delights to the mind'
2.3 Lapsed knowledge, with resurgent sacrifice
2.4 A few notes on Irish studies
3 Critique of Instances
- Ireland for the Most Part a Late Prelude
3.1 Not Christ, but Christy
- notes from a Borderland of 1907
3.2 Advancing on the past
- some poems of Patrick Pearse
3.3 The Brook Kerith (1916)
- George Moore against sacrifice
Yeats on Easter
4 Critique of Instances
- Paris and (is it?) Wall Street
4.1 A French Berkeley of 2007
4.2 'Disturbed by print' - Samuel Beckett's pretext
Appendices I Giovanni Amendola on Berkeley IIA A List of Publications concerning twentieth-century German thought preserved in W. B. Yeats's library [at the time of his death, with details of surviving manuscript annotation] IIB Some further works of German interest used by Yeats [but absent from the O'Shea catalogue] III Chronological select list of texts by George Berkeley separately published in Continental Europe, 1920-6 IV Towards a chronology of publications by J. M. Hone V 'John McGoldrick and the Quaker's daughter'
'Mc Cormack is a retired professor of literary history at Goldsmith’s College in London. As well as a life of J. M. Synge, he wrote a political biography of W. B. Yeats which concentrated on the poet’s relations with Nazi Germany and his interest in French royalist authoritarianism. This book is on something of a related theme as Mc Cormack examines Yeats’s relationship with publisher J. M. Hone who introduced him to the philosophy of George Berkeley and to the writings of contemporary Italian thinkers Giovanni Gentile and Mario Manlio Rossi. The central tenet of their thinking was the idea of sacrifice and this found its way into Yeats’s own work. Mc Cormack’s role is that of a revisionist in that he questions the self-image which Yeats carefully constructed and which, Mc Cormack maintains, biographers accepted. In looking at Yeats’s work he brings in for the purpose of contrast the writings os Synge, George Moore and Beckett. These latter three had no time for the notion of sacrifice and indeed challenged it. In so doing Mc Cormack highlights the influence of a particular strand of European thought on Yeats and shows how this made him different from his Irish contemporaries.'