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The Leaving of Ireland

Migration and Belonging in Irish Literature and Film


Edited By John Lynch and Katherina Dodou

The Leaving of Ireland brings together an international group of scholars to reflect critically on the unfolding nature of the experience of Irish cultural identity at a time when Ireland is struggling to adjust to the shattering impacts of globalization and religious scandals of recent decades. Looking back over the last two centuries, the volume considers a range of literary and filmic works that have sought to articulate something of this experience and its multiple locations. The essays revisit crucial constituents of Irish history and self-perception at the micro-level, exploring the representation of individual experiences of migration and identification and the definition of a sense of belonging. They also examine these issues at the macro-level, looking at larger politico-historical transformations, national affiliations and changed social and geographical landscapes. The book is organized around key themes including history, mobility, memory and place and addresses the works of a wide range of authors, including Emily Lawless, Frank McCourt, Sinéad Morrissey, Paul Muldoon, Joseph O’Connor, J.M. Synge and W.B. Yeats.
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An ‘Experiment in Living’: Bohemianism and Homelessness in W. B. Yeats’s Autobiographies


ABSTRACT This chapter looks at W. B. Yeats’s Autobiographies and connects certain ideas of dislocation and homelessness with the ‘experimental life’ of the Bohemian poet. The potential for the experience of something new to emerge from a truly open sense of living is one that does not follow a previous script but rather endeavours to follow the example of the Nietzschean knowledge-seeker with all its attendant risks. Here the self-transformation of the poet is echoed in the transformative function of poetry on language, where both wander from the familiar and search out the exotic, whilst paradoxically grounding themselves ultimately in the desire for a settled existence.

Richard Ellmann once wrote that ‘a strictly chronological account’ of Yeats’s life between 1889 and 1903 ‘would give the impression of a man in a frenzy, beating on every door in the hotel in an attempt to find his own room’.1 However appealing the hotel-room image is in this wonderful metaphor, it perhaps risks eliding the fact that an important cause for heterogeneity in Yeats’s life was its overriding sense of spatial dislocation. Yeats’s autobiographical writings document this heterogeneity, chronicling a restless itinerary that was initiated by how Yeats’s father, John Butler Yeats, submitted his young family to a series of uprootings in the 1860s, ’70s and ’80s. ← 273 | 274 → It is no coincidence that some of Yeats’s most vivid memories from Sligo, documented in the first volume of the Autobiographies, entitled Reveries over Childhood and Youth, are linked with...

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