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Abstract

David Cregan has called Frank McGuinness the first Irish playwright to apply a distinctively queer dramaturgical epistemology in his plays.1 Yet it is less often acknowledged that Yeats’s drama also took significant steps towards creating space for an anti-normative and anti-authoritarian queer dramaturgy, and thus intervened in normative constructs of sexuality and gender, indirectly joining the sexual liberation and women’s emancipation movements of his time. This was predominantly the result of his collaborations with and inspirations from transgressive artists such as Florence Farr, Michio Itō, Sarah Bernhardt, Vaslav Nijinsky, and Loïe Fuller, as well as his manifold transcultural inspirations which defied sexual polarization and hyper-masculinity in favor of more illicit forms of eros and a gender-bending body ideal. These inspirations included the occult, ancient Greece, ancient India and Tantric philosophy, the Noh theater, the great New Women artists of the time, Percy Bysshe Shelley’s poetry, Sergei Diaghilev’s anti-(hetero)normative ballet movement,2 London’s queer activism of the 1890s,3 and Oscar Wilde, on whom I will focus in this study.

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