Macquarie University
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The production of joy: joy and the poetry of Yeats, Harwood and Josephi

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posted on 2022-03-29, 00:34 authored by Dawne Alicia Yule
This thesis examines the production of joy in selected poems by W.B.Yeats, Gwen Harwood and Beate Josephi. It is argued that, by undertaking close analyses of key poems and by applying the interdisciplinary perspectives of affect studies, new insights into the poems concerned can be obtained. A basic assumption of the thesis is that the production of joy informs the poems in multiple ways, intersecting with the thematic material and, in certain instances, the social conditions and concerns at the time of writing. -- Central to my theoretical approach is the tenet that joy has been variously conceptualized: a brief overview is given in the body of the introduction and in the notes. Until recently, conceptions of joy found theological reflection in the image of joy as a gift bestowed by God upon humans, an idea affirmed in certain poems under study. Additionally, I argue that the poets' understanding of joy and the ways in which it is produced reveals different levels at which joyous experience might take place. Within the poem, metaphysical conceptions of joy are not necessarily applicable, and in the elaboration of the textual space, images and metaphors from the material realm can be appropriated to assist the exploration of new understandings of joy. -- Considering this possibility, I argue that recent theories of production and joy can usefully be applied to poetry study. Throughout the study, I use two definitions of joy: contented pleasure and jouissance, or quasi-erotic joy. I also refer, however, to recent 'happiness' studies, such as those by Sara Ahmed and David Malouf. While essentially phenomenological, my critical approach may best be called 'nomadic' in the Deleuzian sense, since it incorporates different theoretical touchstones: among these are works by Julia Kristeva, Luce Irigaray, Jacques Derrida, Paul Ricoeur and Gilles Deleuze. Kristeva's explication of melancholy and joy provides valuable insights into aesthetic, imaginary and fictitious representation within a new and promising 'economy' of production (1989: 24). Although the artistic process is not the same as the psychoanalytical course aimed at dissolving the patient's symptoms, literary creation in all societies possesses 'a real and imaginary effectiveness' in counteracting depression: 'Literary creation is that adventure of the body and signs that bear witness to the affect - to sadness as an imprint of separation and beginning of the symbol's sway; to joy as an imprint of the triumph that settles me in the universe of artifice and symbol, which I try to harmonize in the best possible way with my experience of reality' (22). -- Kristeva's 'economy' of artistic production provides one important touchstone, and Derrida's elaboration of investigative practices is equally promising. Derrida raises similar concerns to those confronting the author, and at least one of his theories is affirmed throughout this thesis: criticism must be 'democratic', that is, open to multiple positions, without becoming simplistic and irresponsible (Derrida 2002: 57). This study also takes heed, however, of Ricoeur's carefully argued, phenomenological critique of Derrida's claim that semantic analysis must necessarily be kept within a 'metaphysically neutral area' (Ricoeur 2003: 341). Meaning begins with the text itself, but its 'dynamic' character unfolds and expands across many discourses (377). -- Deleuze' s conception of the arts as a joyously 'disruptive' force provides another springboard for my analyses. A productive and producing machine, the arts' complex, proliferating system invades and is invaded by politics, history, philosophy and culture. Rather than represent the expected view, artists can formulate a resistance to unhelpful ideas, furthering the generation of positive cultural and political potentialities (Deleuze 2007: 328). In brief then, this study is concerned with poetry and the production of joy in the traditional, familiar sense and the production of jouissance in potentially 'disruptive' poems. It contributes to several areas of investigation. Most prominent among these are literary criticism, studies of affect, cultural studies and feminist theory.


Alternative Title

Joy and the poetry of Yeats, Harwood and Josephi

Table of Contents

Introduction -- Joy and text -- Joy and nature -- Joy and desire -- Joy and madness -- Joy and travel -- Joy and rebirth -- Conclusion.


Bibliography: p. 313-326

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


Thesis (PhD), Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Dept. of English

Department, Centre or School

Department of English

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Paul Sheehan

Additional Supervisor 1

John Stephens


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Dawne Alicia Yule 2011.




1 online resource (326 p.)

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