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W. B. Yeats’s Robartes-Aherne Writings. Featuring the Making of His “Stories of Michael Robartes and His Friends”, Wayne K. Chapman (ed.)

Seán Golden
p. 137-138
Référence(s) :

W. B. Yeats’s Robartes-Aherne Writings. Featuring the Making of His “Stories of Michael Robartes and His Friends”, Wayne K. Chapman (ed.), London, Bloomsbury Academic (Modernist Archives), 2018, 372 p.

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1Wayne K. Chapman has published “the first genetically conceived, chronologically arranged edition” of the works Yeats wrote around the characters of Michael Robartes and Owen Aherne (and sometimes, his brother John) “in both published and unpublished states” (introduction, p. xviii). The book forms part of Bloomsbury Academic’s Modernist Archives Series, dedicated to “archival excavation and thick contextualization” of literary modernism. It is certainly a feat of erudition, tracking down manuscript material at the British Library and libraries at the universities of Harvard, Southern Illinois, SUNY Buffalo and Emory, as well as the National Library of Ireland.

2The study is divided into five sections. The first deals with the early appearance of Robartes and Aherne in the Secret Rose triptych: Rosa Alchemica (1896), The Tables of the Law (1896), The Adoration of the Magi (1897). The second traces the “resurrection” of Robartes and Aherne from 1917-1920 in unpublished manuscript material (“The Discoveries of Michael Robartes”, “Anglo-Ireland: A Conversation”, “Appendix by Michael Robartes”). The third examines an explosion of creative work from 1919-1925 in The Wild Swans at Coole and Michael Robartes and the Dancer, in “notes” for Four Plays for Dancers and in inventions and extracts for the first version of A Vision, giving important insights into “The Gift of Harun-Al-Rashid” along the way. The fourth part is devoted to the drafting of Stories of Michael Robartes and his Friends. The final section edits “Michael Robartes Foretells” (a text that Yeats chose not to publish) and “Denise’s Story”, an inserted addition to Stories of Michael Robartes.

3By its very nature, this kind of work prioritises the scholarly apparatus, which precedes the published versions of the material. In each section, prefatory matter accompanied by footnotes sketches out the historical context of the preliminary drafts before presenting facsimiles and transcriptions of the manuscripts and typescripts, also accompanied by notes, and where relevant, the published version. A full appreciation of the scholarship involved requires a constant cross-referencing of the prefatory material with the drafts and the published versions, if not an encyclopaedic knowledge of the primary material in addition to the secondary literature on the subject. A prior and studious rereading of the corresponding published versions would be a handy preparation for the narrative arc Chapman traces.

4The result of this genetic criticism is a fascinating trajectory of the Robartes-Aherne characters, replete with biographical information on Yeats and commentary on their relevance for the later poems and both versions of A Vision. A rather “Orientalist” Robartes emerges, to Aherne’s national Catholic foil, giving Chapman the opportunity to illustrate the role of humour and self-parody in these texts, in their protagonists’ repartee and slagging of the poet himself, and in the wry editorial insertions Yeats made to give credence to his “source” material.

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Seán Golden, « W. B. Yeats’s Robartes-Aherne Writings. Featuring the Making of His “Stories of Michael Robartes and His Friends”, Wayne K. Chapman (ed.) », Études irlandaises, 44-1 | 2019, 137-138.

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Seán Golden, « W. B. Yeats’s Robartes-Aherne Writings. Featuring the Making of His “Stories of Michael Robartes and His Friends”, Wayne K. Chapman (ed.) », Études irlandaises [En ligne], 44-1 | 2019, mis en ligne le 14 novembre 2019, consulté le 14 décembre 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/etudesirlandaises/7326

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