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DOI

https://doi.org/10.34068/IYS.04.01.02

Abstract

This article opens up Yeats’s Calvary (1920) for new contemporary queer theatrical interpretations by addressing the tension between dramaturgies of exclusion and inclusion as well as between the authority of masculinity and the transgressive counter-authority of effeminacy and melancholy masculinities. Due to Yeats’s anti-democratic and elitist remarks and his problematic responses to authoritarian political performance in Europe and Ireland, his theatre is often seen as a space which fosters exclusion, conventional notions of heroism, and sexual polarization. Even though the authoritarian and elitist aspects of Yeats’s life and work cannot be denied, his rich queer and feminist networks, and most importantly his sympathy for Oscar Wilde and Roger Casement changed and shaped the representations of gender in his plays in considerable ways. Thanks to these influences, Yeats’s drama took significant steps towards creating space for a queer dramaturgical epistemology which refuses totalizing and homogenizing (hetero)normative frames, mostly those of hyper-masculinity, Carlylian views of heroism and sexual/gender polarization. Through the lens of performance and queer theory, this article highlights the anti-normative and anti-authoritarian potential of Yeats’s theatre in the context of Wilde’s influence. Yeats does not mention Wilde in his notes to Calvary, but his essays about Wilde prove that he identified the hardships of Wilde’s life with those of Christ and also Lazarus even more than two decades after Wilde’s death. This study also illustrates how the use of the unhappy Lazarus motif and the implicit references to the myth of Narcissus in Calvary can serve to express sympathy for Wilde and precarious, stigmatized lives in general and can thus convey vital messages about queerness today.

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