Modernism and Cosmology: Absurd Lights by Katherine Ebury (auth.)

By Katherine Ebury (auth.)

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The presence of infinity also introduces cosmological and astronomical distances into the poetry and, poignantly, into desire itself. Anna Henchman suggests that in In Memoriam, Tennyson uses astronomy, in particular the trope of parallax, to show that distance from the loved one leads to poetic idealisation and distortion, just as our distance from the stars causes them to seem different from how they truly are (2003, p. 39). ’ (1992, p. 13). We are constantly told in this collection that the speaker will never be close to his beloved, as in ‘He Hears the Cry of the Sedge’ or ‘He Thinks of His Past Greatness’, where the speaker’s former harmony with the cosmos gives way to knowledge of his rejection: ‘Knowing one, out of all things, alone, that his head / May not lie on the breast nor his lips on the Yeatsian Cosmology 41 hair / Of the woman that he loves, until he dies’ (1992, p.

Perhaps it is not so great even then’ (1953, p. 39). The change in Yeats’s opinion may date from this exchange of letters, as Moore assumes that Yeats does not understand Whitehead’s argument and writes ‘you must have misunderstood him also…Whitehead is said to call himself a Yeatsian Cosmology 49 realist’ but then goes on to point out that his work offers ‘no kind of basis to Croce or Bergson or, I suppose, to Gentile’ (1953, p. 97). Yeats changes his mind he gives no sign of it, instead replying that Whitehead describes himself as realist ‘for dialectical convenience’ but ‘in one passage suggests that his ultimate position is idealist.

In this, O’Brien’s interest is similar to that of his fellow countrymen, Yeats, Joyce and Beckett, where it is often the difficulty of the new physics and its paradoxical, subversive power that is most useful creatively. Beginnings: Yeats, Joyce, Beckett Although this study addresses itself to modernism more broadly, the close relationship between Yeats, Joyce and Beckett in terms of influence Introduction: Cosmic Modernism 25 and intertextuality allows for especially powerful connections and disjunctions to be drawn between their work.

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