W. B. Yeats's "Pan" - Finn Fordham

“The ‘flight’ into fairy land reflects a solution, of sorts, to a crisis of the modern self, felt particularly in the context of the fragile lyric self, threatened with its own demise in the face of modernizing forces of commercialism and industrialization. Further competition came from other genres, as Longenbach has argued: ‘ambitions for poetry [were] no longer plausible given the prominence of the novel.’ [See James Longenbach, ‘Modern Poetry’, in Michael H. Levenson, The Cambridge Companion to Modernism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999), 103.] While Yeats was a boy, poetry in many quarters was, in some accounts, openly adopting defensive or confrontational strategies. William Morris’s Kelmscott Press and other fine-presses were part of ‘an explosion of fine-press printing in the late nineteenth century’, as Jerome McGann described it, which ‘came as a movement of resistance against [the] new current of commercial book production’. [McGann, Black Riders, 7.] Resistance was certainly one of the main and stated intentions of these alternative modes of production, but it is important to ask questions here about how markets and commodities within them operate in order to ask whether this idea of ‘resistance’ is only a rhetoric that becomes part of the commodity, part of its value and its cost. In the context of this study it is worth asking because the presentation of radicalism within cultural practice is key to the way the self as a resistant force is constructed as a reflection – or indeed the source – of these kinds of practice in modernism.”

Finn Fordham, I Do I Undo I Redo: The Textual Genesis of Modernist Selves in Hopkins, Yeats, Conrad, Forster, Joyce, and Woolf (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010), 115-16. Author’s brackets include the original text’s footnotes.