Kipling and Yeats have long been seen as the two towering figures of turn-of-the-century English literature, especially by foreign readers. There are obvious links between them to support that perception. They were exact contemporaries, giving voice to conservative political views in Romantic expressions during turbulently changing times. However, they have come to be seen as distinct enough for posterity to assign them to different periods (Kipling to the Victorian, Yeats to the Modernist), and their oeuvres are often read in the clashing contexts of British imperialism and Irish nationalism. Bubb’s comparative study takes the convergences in their lives and poetics as its subject matter with the aim of bringing them back into ‘critical contemporaneity’ and discovering the legacies of the fin de siècle which, he suggests, lasted throughout the twentieth century. Rather than treating the turn of the centuries as a unitary epoch, Bubb makes use of Michel Foucault’s notion of the ‘constellation’ of discourses. Meeting Without Knowing It – which borrows its title from Foucault’s The Archaeology of Knowledge – examines the intersecting and separating discourses of decadence, nationality and the Romantic in Kipling’s and Yeats’s literary education, mature works and legacies. Tracing the chronology of their ideological intersections in their formative years before the Boer War to their early-twentieth century ‘critical estrangement’, Bubb convincingly argues that their poetics crossed several paths. Inspired by Canetti’s notion of negative influence, he narrates the ‘unintentional collaboration’ and ‘unacknowledged rivalry’ of the two literary giants who never met or corresponded, though often lived and worked near each other. The last subheading in the introduction identifies the book as a ‘comparative biography’. However, Bubb is more interested in ‘key moments’ as Kipling and Yeats progressed through time (from late-Victorian to modern times) and space (from peripheries to the centre), and recovered times and places as they embarked on the re-writing of Victorian discourses of Britishness from the imperial margins – that is, from India and Ireland, respectively. Meeting Without Knowing It is a meticulously phrased and engaging study of Kipling’s and Yeats’s transitional narratives, which raises questions not only about their reception histories, canonical divisions and patterns of mutual exchange, but also about generic strategies of confronting the fragmentation of metropolitan living with the imagined unity of peripheral homes lost and remembered. © The Author 2018. Published by Oxford University Press for the Court of the University of St Andrews. All rights reserved. The University of St Andrews is a charity registered in Scotland: No. SC013532.
Forum for Modern Language Studies – Oxford University Press
Published: Jan 1, 2018
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