In fact, this double stance, in which the subject is very personal as well as distantly impersonal, is demanded by the main ideas of the book. The system insists that oppositions between subjectivity and objectivity, the inner being of the self and the seemingly unrelated external world, are illusions. One overarching set of symbols always reaches down as well as up, spiralling in and out simultaneously. Everything is caught in it, including book, author, and reader. In terms of genetic materials, the first Vision began as an occult experiment in automatic writing between W.
Yeats and his wife George Hyde Lees, a private ritual between two newly married partners, in late Neither of those editions was ever published, and whatever final changes Yeats [or his wife] made to the book are lost. To summarise a set of events that has been described many times, within a month or two, Yeats decided that what was arriving in the daily sessions was a philosophical system and that he should give it organized expression.
He began crafting a dialogue between his fictional characters Michael Robartes and Owen Aherne, resurrected for the purpose from the s, then switched to a core of expository prose for the philosophy itself, embedded in a fantastic semi-hoax in the best fictional fashion. An introduction by Aherne tells the story of how he and Robartes gave their old friend Yeats an esoteric manuscript to edit. Luckily, T. I wish you would try. Faux-Renaissance woodcuts inside were reminiscent of fine press books like those of the Kelmscott Press.
Here was something to puzzle over, engage with and perhaps baffled by, the way one would read T. The semiotic of the first version of A Vision seemed to suggest that it was a sort of skeleton key that would explain some of the forces at work in the autobiography, The Trembling of the Veil , which had been published in book form in , just a few years earlier.
It contains references to ideas and terms from the system, as does some of the poetry and drama that had been appearing in periodicals, collections, and on the stage from forward.
The Yeats who is its author is the writer looked to more than any other for articulation of some of the extreme pressures of the decade in Irish political and social life, including of course years of war and civil war. However, A Vision seems to want to enact a different narrative. This Yeats seems actively to be opposing his own stature. A Vision is filled with arcane jargon, difficult diagrams, and a very curious rhetoric that seems to take itself very seriously and at the same time be laughing at some private joke.
Its author is someone immersed in art and magic, who conducts elaborate, even baroque, experiments in genre, style, and form. He is also sometimes in command of his material and sometimes seemingly overwhelmed by it, so that the book acts out a wobbly, dynamic performance. It is modernist and esoteric.
In the late s and early s, he read philosophy from the pre-Socratic philosophers through Neoplatonism through George Berkeley through Hegel to contemporary thinkers like Benedetto Croce and George Moore, revisiting old friends like Plotinus and Nietzsche along the way. With the help of George Yeats and her proficiency in French he dived into the multi-volume history of science by French mathematician Pierre Duhem; with the help of Lady Gregory he revisited collected folklore and Roman and Greek classics in her library. And he wrote and rewrote much of A Vision , finally producing in a book by the same title as the first one but with about two-thirds made up of new material.
For example, in the first third of the book, a sort of grab-bag of material extraneous to the philosophical sections, an introduction tells the story of the automatic script openly, rather than in the fantastic hoax of the first edition.
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A story filling out the pages includes Michael Robartes and Owen Aherne as openly fictional characters. The philosophical chapters of the edition have been smoothed out, seemingly logical explanations replacing imagistic and poetic examples. Authoritative names are dropped, footnotes added that pile up even more citations. The magically inclined aesthete, often confused but always intense, of the book has been replaced by someone who wears a more worldly, slightly pompous air.
Rather than trying and failing to give successful explanations of the very confusing philosophy, this authorial voice is at war with himself: part of him accepts his own limited ability to see past his own location on the wheels of the system. Part of him pushes against this acceptance and somewhat artificially props up his engagement and energy with reading and having strong opinions about the latest work on subjects germane to the business at hand, such as idealist philosophy and art history.
The two sides of the Mask, push and counter-push, can be seen through the inherent contrast between two sets of ideas that underpin much of the new material of the book. The push can be seen in comments about, for example, contemporary commentators on Hegel, including modern philosophical arguments like those of J.
McTaggart, Bertrand Russell, and G. These and other sources in this counter-push lean toward a state that seems static if viewed from the outside but moving and flexible if experienced from within. The point is that the Yeats of the Vision is in self-contradiction, part pushing urgently towards the new ideas that he believes are definitive of the next age, part pushing against into intellectual and spiritual dimensions that offer an enticing distance from definition itself.
To some degree, of course, A Vision is A Vision : the system is fundamentally the same in both books. Yet the books themselves are quite different from each other, in presentation and structure. The altered emphasis, and the structure in which that emphasis can be perceived, may be seen in texts beyond A Vision , as well, as might be expected: Yeats used A Vision in part as a quarry of ideas and images for use in his other work.
Movement is still, and stillness is in motion. By and large, in , the philosophy is presented statically. In terms of voice, the author of the book is caught in the gyres and often confused by them, but he speaks as if the material itself emanates from a still, stable point of view. By , somewhat paradoxically since the author of the book understands the system much more thoroughly than he does in the version, many more tags implying mobility dot the pages. Much has been made by many perceptive readers of the Thirteenth Cone or Cycle, or Sphere in the A Vision, a concept that receives much more emphasis there than in the text.
However, the concept of the Thirteenth Cone is misread as a geometric replacement for an idea of God or eternity, as Neil Mann has recently shown. In the book, these fictions have been supplemented by the autobiographical introduction which renders the recitation of the earlier account an overtly revealed hoax rather than a thinly veiled one , as well as stories of the strange crew of characters engaged in bizarre activities that roughly enact the concepts of the system.
Rather than knowing and dancing the meanings of it all, as do the Judwali tribespeople from the version, Michael Robartes and his friends are caught up in doing very odd things including, as an utterly outlandish final item in a strange series of acts, incubating a lost egg of Leda , which they do not understand. It seems to me that I have found what I wanted. I must embody it in the completion of my life. The abstract is not life and everywhere draws out its contradictions.
Yeats's Mask - A Vision and Yeats’s Late Masks - Open Book Publishers
You can refute Hegel but not the saint or the song of sixpence There is both more and less: the author clearly has a better purchase on the material, but the presentation is also destabilized by the multiplicity of narratives. Inside the framing material, the text has four books, a neat foursquare structure. Inside this architecture, however, Book II in particular is a sort of grab-bag of concepts culled from the automatic script and notebooks, attempting to describe a number of the further complexities of the system beyond essays describing each of the lunar Phases.
In , the seeming neatness of the earlier structure has become an uneven set of five Books. Regarded in terms of a readerly experience, occurring in time, the A Vision implies a movement from one Book to another that mirrors the intellectual shuttling between multiplicity and unity, many and one, that is stressed in the exposition of the ideas themselves.
Thus, Book I, with a description of each lunar Phase, dominated by the influences of the four Faculties, is followed by Book II, an account of the larger view of the discarnate Principles. The characters conclude that the misery of the human condition is so all-encompassing, only a root-and-branch genetic reconstruction of humanity — one that reproduces asexually and has neurologically disassociated sexual pleasure and reproduction — could possibly improve things.
The Elementary Particles is a late classic of the European reactionary literary tradition, both in terms of its unflinching evocation of the failures of modernity and in its cheap and seethingly horny provocations. Trying to describe the work of the French writer who writes under the name of Antoine Volodine among several others is nearly impossible. His fiction often features futuristic settings and ventures down metaphysical pathways: Post Exoticism in Ten Lessons, Lesson Eleven is set in a future where artists and writers run afoul of an oppressive government.
Volodine focuses on a number of fictional writers and imagined literary movements; even as he chronicles the grim clashes between state power and artistic freedom, he also creates a sense of delight at how different creative communities affect one another, and how artistic movements transform themselves and those who participate in them. Lord of the Flies contrasted polite British society with the Hobbesian state of nature and asked whether the two might not be so different; Battle Royale insists that the war of all against all was always already there — the scenario just formalizes the rules.
But Takami makes clear that the everyday violence of family and school primed the kids for taking on roles as victims or victimizers. Prepare to be equal parts disgusted and enthralled. Plenty of dystopian fiction makes memorable use of cities. Feed might have been the darkest dystopia I read as a child because the villain is amorphous and unbeatable — there is no single sinister overlord or town to escape.
Anderson makes consumerism and vanity look unbearable and shallow, but also unavoidable. Here, though, one man survives, and so do all of the women. How exactly does the world fall apart? What nations become powerful? What skills become rare? What resources become valuable? Like most dystopias, the series is also a product of its particular moment — some of its political gestures already feel a touch out of place.
But it is still remarkable for how thoroughly it imagines its new world, and how well it executes its epic survival quest. In it, a group of youngsters befriend one another and their idealistic ambitions get the better of them, leading to extremely well-intentioned destruction that makes this both a dystopia and a great postapocalyptic tale. Why this collection of short stories flew so low under the radar is a mystery. Derby is one of the masters of surrealist dystopia, weaving together big ideas and raw emotions to create a tapestry of depression and alienation that spans decades.
Despite the fact that the stories are framed as being the tales of humans long lost to time, retold by a monkish order in the distant future, each tale stands on its own as a document of fallen-world—building. Women are forced to harvest so many eggs that their hips crack, food crises lead to everyone eating just meat, children start mysteriously floating, warriors fight with sound guns … the level of imagination is staggering, but the book remains grounded in the dismal fact of human adaptation or is it resignation?
Reading The City of Ember is an experience tinged with a constant, low-grade anxiety, like the moment before a jump scare in a horror movie. Lina Mayfleet lives in a world of scarcity, with food supplies depleting and no means of getting more. Even more terrifying, she lives in a world of encroaching darkness — the sky and world beyond her underground city are black and, like the food supply, the light bulbs are running out.
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When the book begins, flickers and power shortages are commonplace, and Lina never knows when an outage might be permanent. Of course, we get the standard dystopian tropes: career assigned to you in this case by picking out of a bag , no strong parental figures, a younger sibling to care for. But what makes it unique among the bevy of early aughts young-adult books is how visceral her fear is. There is a clock running out, and we have no idea how much time is left. With the self-centeredness of just about any high-school-aged kid, narrator Kathy details the drama of a love triangle and the sexual awkwardness that comes with being young and curious.
But as she grows older, it becomes apparent that Kathy and her schoolmates are meant for a different life: to be cogs in the wheel of a larger system that is so dominant, so all-consuming, that mere thoughts of rebellion never even emerge. Here, she finds state-of-the-art fitness equipment, art and cultural materials, and a friendly staff. It all seems decidedly pleasant — except for the mandatory nature of it, and the fate of all of the residents there. The result is a powerful meditation on questions of societal obligations, families or the lack thereof , and how one best leaves a mark on the world.
Instead, he zeroes in on essential questions: What does it mean to be part of a family as the world reverts to a state of nature? Is it more important to uphold some remnant of morality and idealism in this broken world, or does survival take precedence over everything else?
This is not the kind of dystopian narrative that extrapolates contemporary events far into the future, or uses fantastical or uncanny elements to heighten a mood. The novel follows the title character as she escapes from a totalitarian nation and finds herself in a series of nightmarish scenarios, from grotesque industries to urban violence.
As she ventures north, she joins up with a group of like-minded women living on a farm called Carhullan. In the U.
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