Eliot, Yeats, Joyce, and the modernist reinvention of Spenser and Donne
in Spenser and Donne
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The works of Eliot, Yeats, and Joyce feature suggestive references to Spenser and Donne which are eclectic and programmatic in equal measure. The essays of Eliot and Yeats evidence a determination to re-evaluate and appropriate early modern authors, amongst them Spenser and Donne. Eliot is partly responsible for the rediscovery of and newly established appreciation for metaphysical poetry, especially Donne, while Yeats and Joyce share an uneasy relationship to Spenser as an Irish colonialist forebear, whom they feel compelled to confront. However, a tension exists between the artistic use made of Spenser and Donne by Eliot, Yeats, and Joyce. The complex intertextual allusions to Spenser and Donne embedded in their works indicate the various ways in which they repurpose them to befit a modernist aesthetic and intermesh them with the symbolic patterns of their texts. Additionally, contradictory accounts of the lines of division between the medieval, the Renaissance and the modern are put forward by Eliot, Yeats, and Joyce that often diverge from the view that Spenser and Donne are proponents of sharply opposed poetic practices. In modernist writing, Spenser and Donne are held to be as much part of a literary continuum as to represent clashing styles and imaginaries.

Spenser and Donne

Thinking poets


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