The Yeats Brothers and Modernism's Love of Motion

Calvin Bedient, Author . Univ. of Notre Dame
, $TK (424p) ISBN (385p) ISBN 978-0-268-02206-8

If one is of the mind that W.B. Yeats is a bit overrated as a poet and that his brother, Jack B. Yeats, underrated as a painter, this book is a must. Although Bedient, a poet and professor of English at UCLA, does not exactly derogate Yeats the poet, the fact that Jack, little known outside Ireland, commands half this book suggests a slight repositioning of the brothers Yeats on the aesthetic map. Bedient's thesis—that both Yeatses evinced a very modernist view of motion—is a nonstarter throughout, and Bedient's penchant for Deleuzian analysis makes for some silly assertions. Though he does contribute a sensational reading of W.B.'s often overlooked “Crazy Jane” poems, the real value of this book is his spirited description of Jack's thickly impastoed oils, depicting rural and Irish life in garish colors wherein figuration melts into an expressionist background. These are given very game and energetic paraphrases by Bedient, often excessive, but written with a conviction reminiscent of William Gass. “[Jack] Yeats's artistic soul is a verb spread out by a stream of the flightier prepositions: his representations are toward and beside and between and against , more than they are of or about .” The same can be said of this charming study. (Nov.)

Reviewed on: 09/29/2008
Release date: 01/01/2009
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