Iconicity and the divine in the <i>fin de siècle</i> poetry of W.B. Yeats

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This article examines the iconicity of the divine in the early poetry of W. B. Yeats. It begins with a central difficulty: how can poetic form mime meaning when that meaning, the divine, is unknown or even ineffable? Some of Yeats’s early poems respond to this difficulty with an ironic form of iconicity, mourning the fact that the more a poem seems like the divine, the less it is divine. The article then explores the ways in which Yeats’s early poetry tests this distinction between likeness and identity. It closes by examining certain poems which transform iconic effects into acts of creation (so that it is as if meaning mimes form), and by exploring the troubling implications of this inversion.


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