William Butler Yeats • “Easter, 1916”

Overview

Welcome to Week Three of the course, in which we take a broad humanities approach to studying William Butler Yeats’s masterful lyric, “Easter, 1916,” considered by many to be the greatest political poem in the English language. There are five tasks in our unit about this 80-line poem. Each of the tasks is explained on this webpage. The first one is designated Task C.1, and the final one is designated Task C.5. The third and fifth tasks require you to go to our course Folio page to take tests on the assigned material for Week Three. Task C.3 is a quiz that yields the 20 quiz points available for Week Three. Task C.5 is an exam that yields the 30 exam points available for Week Three.

Begin <William Butler Yeats • “Easter, 1916”> on Monday, July 8th, 2019. Complete the five tasks in the unit no later than 11:00 pm Eastern on Monday, July 15th, 2019. Late work will receive a grade of zero.

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Task C.1
Listen to Yeats’s “Easter, 1916” — and More

Poems are written to be heard. They are a spoken-voice art form, as well as printed shapes on a page (although how a poem looks is vitally important, too). As he created his lines, Yeats invariably paid attention to producing rhythm, his aim being to enhance the speaking or listening experience. To begin Week Three, listen to the acclaimed Irish actor Liam Neeson recite “Easter, 1916,” which William Butler Yeats crafted over the summer and early fall of 1916 in response to the Easter 1916 Rising, a week-long revolution that, while quashed by the British colonial authorities, set Ireland on a course to national sovereignty for 26 of its 32 counties. Access the video by clicking the link immediately below. It is also available on YouTube (the link opens in a new window). The video was produced in 2016 by RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann), Ireland’s public-service broadcaster, as part of the centenary commemorations for the Easter 1916 Rising. Running length: 4 minutes, 8 seconds.

Next, listen to a multi-voice presentation of the Proclamation (versus “declaration”) of the Irish Republic, which, as rebel commander — the designated temporary president of the sought-for republic’s government — Patrick Pearse read from the rebels’ field headquarters: the General Post Office building on Sackville (now O’Connell) Street in central Dublin. It is likely that Pearse co-authored the document with James Connolly, the leader of the Irish Citizen Army (I.C.A.), a nationalist militia associated with socialist trade unionism. The Proclamation was printed at the I.C.A.’s main building, Liberty Hall, Dublin, shortly before the Easter 1916 Rising, which began on Easter Monday (April 24th), one day later than originally scheduled. Access the video by clicking the link immediately below. It is also available on YouTube (the link opens in a new window). The video was produced in 2016 by RTÉ (Raidió Teilifís Éireann), Ireland’s public-service broadcaster, as part of the centenary commemorations for the Easter 1916 Rising. Running length: 5 minutes, 11 seconds.

Finally in this Task, absorb a short video that the Government of Ireland issued in 2016. Entitled I Am Ireland (Mise Éire), it purpose was to celebrate what the Republic of Ireland sounded and looked like one hundred years after the Easter 1916 Rising. We could label this video a piece of state propaganda. Certainly, it attempts to both articulate and imply some of the key values espoused by Ireland in the early twenty-first century. Access the video by clicking the link immediately below. It is also available on YouTube (the link opens in a new window). Most of the video is in English with Gaeilge (i.e. Irish-language) subtitles. Running length: 3 minutes, 21 seconds.

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Task C.2
Read “Easter, 1916,” Plus Biography

Can Be Done Concurrently with Task C.3

William Butler Yeats’s highly influential poem, “Easter, 1916,” covers four stanzas (i.e. verses) and 80 lines. In order to better understand it, this Task obliges you to read the poem, followed by Parts I and II of the second chapter of the second (and final) volume of the definitive biography of William Butler Yeats. Those sections of the biography focus on the months during which Yeats authored “Easter, 1916.” The chapter in question is entitled “Shades and Angel 1916-1917.” It appears in W.B. Yeats: A Life, Volume 2, The Arch-Poet 1915-1939, first published in 2003 by Oxford University Press. The author, Irishman Robert Fitzroy Foster (usually called R.F. Foster or Roy Foster), produced it while holding the Carroll Professorship in Irish History at the University of Oxford (Hertford College) in the U.K. By contrast with most prior biographers of Yeats, Foster enjoyed the status of authorized biographer. He benefitted from access to a trove of archival material, some of it amassed by F.S.L. Lyons, a leading Irish historian, who had been working on Yeats’s life story but died unexpectedly with the project still incomplete.

In the artifact that you must read, you will find: (1) Yeasts’s poem, presented with numbered lines; (2) Foster’s biographical research (including his endnotes); (3) your instructor’s “quick guide” to some of the key individuals and terms Foster invokes; and (4) a short overview of the Easter 1916 Rising (based on work by the historian John Dorney).

The next task (C.3) is a 30-question multiple-choice quiz over the reading packet outlined above, centered on the Yeats poem and the Foster biography. Available on our course’s Folio page, the quiz is not time-limited. (However, it is “live” and available for you to take only until 11:00 pm on Monday, July 15th, 2019. After that hour, it closes.) The quiz is open-book in nature, so your most efficient and productive strategy is probably to attempt it while also engaging in Task C.2!

The document containing the Yeats poem, the Foster biography, and the other, related material is available here: Yeats Poem and Foster Biography as a PDF. The link opens in a new window.

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Task C.3
Take a Quiz about the Poem and Biography

Can Be Done Concurrently with Task C.2

Having studied — or while studying — the PDF artifact containing the poem “Easter, 1916” (by Yeats) and the biographical material (by Foster), you need to go to the course Folio page and take a multiple-choice quiz about its contents. The quiz is not time-limited; in other words, you don’t have to be anxious about running out of time as you work through the questions. In addition, the quiz is open-book. While the majority of the quiz questions refer directly to the material in the PDF artifact, a few of them require you to consult a reliable outside source. The web (i.e. internet) constitutes the most straightforward platform on which to discover relevant sources. In total, the quiz contains 30 questions: 28 of them are worth 0.7 of a point each (for a total of 19.6 points); the other two questions — the simplest, by far — are worth 0.2 of a point each (for a total of 0.4 of a point). Thus, the maximum point yield from the 30 questions is 20 points. Clearly: Task C.3 provides all 20 of the quiz points available in Week Three. (You’ll recall that the course offers up to 20 quiz points and up to 30 exam points during each of its five Weeks. That’s a grand total of 250 points for the entire course.)

The quiz is not time-limited. In other words, there is no limit on how long you can take to complete it. However, the quiz is “live” and available to take only until 11:00 pm Eastern on Monday, July 15th, 2019. After that hour, it closes.

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Task C.4
Study Lecture/Exam Notes

Once you’ve completed Tasks C.1 through C3 above, you are ready to study, carefully and thoroughly, a set of formal Lecture/Exam Notes about Yeats’s “Easter, 1916.” The lecture is presented in written form, along with several useful images. As a PDF artifact, the lecture is available here: Lecture/Exam Notes about Yeats’s “Easter, 1916” for Week Three. (The artifact opens in a new window.) The lecture is the sole basis for the 30-point exam for Week Three

• The lecture acknowledges W.H. Auden’s assessment of Yeats’s engagement (in “Easter, 1916” and elsewhere) with the type of poem known as the occasional poem.
• Using Patrick Pearse’s poetics of blood sacrifice as a context, the lecture contrasts Yeats’s refusal, in 1915, to compose a Great War poem with his committing, during the summer and early fall of 1916, to produce “Easter, 1916.”
• Deploying the concept of the dérive, the lecture examines the psycho-geography associated with Yeats’s creation of “Easter, 1916.”
• The lecture posits that huge Irish losses in the early days of Battle of the Somme may have influenced both line 68 and the final date in “Easter, 1916.”
• The lecture argues that the physical form of “Easter, 1916” may be indebted to a monument present in central Dublin in 1916.

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Task C.5
Take the Exam for Week Three, Based on the Lecture/Exam Notes

Having thoroughly studied the Lecture/Exam Notes for Yeats’s “Easter, 1916” (see Task C.4), you need to go to the course Folio page and take a 30-question multiple-choice exam about its contents. The exam is time-limited; in other words, you must complete it within a certain (generous) length of time. In addition, the exam is closed-book. In other words, you are on your honor not to use any outside material, including but not limited to: (1) the Lecture/Exam notes provided in task C.4; and (2) outside notes, webpages, study guides, textbooks, and consulting individuals. Your instructor has no way to check if a student cheats by violating the closed-book requirement. Simply put: The university expects you to observe its Honor Code (link opens in a new window). Ultimately, if you cheat, that must be between you and your conscience.

The exam (i.e. Task C.5) will be available on our course Folio page before 9:00 pm on Tuesday, July 9th, 2019.

The exam is time-limited. In other words, there is a (generous) limit on how long you can take to complete it. Furthermore, the test is “live” and available to take only until 11:00 pm Eastern on Monday, July 15th, 2019. After that hour, it closes.

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