James Joyce's Ulysses / Jack Yeats - Nicholas Allen

"[Jack] Yeats shares one other strategy with Joyce. Leopold Bloom sold advertising, manipulating desire to reconfigure the modern social subject, mass consumption a new and dislocating experience. Bloom works between form and aspiration, clinging to a belief in the human in face of serial exclusion. Although Yeats does not seem to have possessed a copy of Ulysses in his library, he did, by coincidence, name a number of his then contemporary sketchbooks 'Cyclops'. And a notable feature of a number of paintings from the mid-1920s is the contingency between advertising and nationalism. In National Airs / Patriotic Airs, painted in 1923, the conductor of the Gaiety Theatre's orchestra turns to the audience during the interval to lead them in the singing of national ballads. The stage behind is covered by a lowered screen, which carries a series of advertisements. The audience participate in two activities, singing and reading, advertising and ballad looking to the future even as they play with the past, the trusted product sold with the satisfied customer's testimony. The political ballad declares a wrong will be righted in the act of its remembrance that assumes a community of listeners open to its message. The contiguity of the two forms suggests awareness that ideas, like products, are sold. That this perception should find its expression at a period of Irish history in which the 'sell out' of the Treaty caused civil war might alert us to the play of Yeats's politics."

Nicholas Allen, Modernism, Ireland and Civil War (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 159.