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Poetry & Responsibility$
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Neil Corcoran

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9781781380352

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781380352.001.0001

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W. B. Yeats’s ‘Among School Children’

W. B. Yeats’s ‘Among School Children’

The Poem and its Critics

(p.59) Chapter 4 W. B. Yeats’s ‘Among School Children’
Poetry & Responsibility

Neil Corcoran

Liverpool University Press

This chapter considers one of Yeats's most famous poems in its various contexts of origin and reception. It examines the experiences that initiated the poem, the historical circumstances of its composition, its evolution through its manuscript drafts, and its formal realisation as a brilliant adaptation of ottava rima stanza form. A detailed close reading of the poem follows, which judges it a model of how Yeats holds impulses to disintegration perilously in the balance with magisterial integration at a formal level; which is also, exactly, the poem's own theme. The chapter then examines a variety of critical responses to the poem (by, among others, Seamus Heaney, Delmore Schwartz, Frank Kermode, Helen Vendler and Paul de Man), showing how these sometimes mimic the poem's own processes and also how they offer a model of literary criticism itself not as consensus but as inter-generational conversation.

Keywords:   Yeats, Kermode, Vendler

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