W. B. Yeats’ “September 1913” as an Elegy: Generic Deviation


Author: Lamia Jaoua Sahnoun, University of Sfax, Tunisia
Email: [email protected]
Published: June 1, 2018

Citation: Sahnoun, L. J. (2018). W. B. Yeats’ “September 1913” as an Elegy: Generic Deviation. IAFOR Journal of Arts & Humanities, 5(1). https://doi.org/10.22492/ijah.5.1.06


A literary work is most often characterised by formal, thematic and stylistic features. The distinction between these is never obvious, though. In a Petrarchan sonnet, for instance, the form is closely tied to the theme (tension in the octet and relief in the sestet). Similarly, the traditional ballad generally tells a tragic story in local history or legend in quatrains where the second and fourth lines usually rhyme. Stylistically, a ballad will tend to use simple language and occasional vivid dialogue. However, throughout history, many literary genres have undergone changes that would often free them from formal constraints, so much so that a modern reader might wonder why W. C. Williams’s “This is just to say” should not be taken as prose or Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream” as verse. Genre assignment has thus grown increasingly complex, an operation that will need to take into consideration the dynamicity of the creative literary mind and its resistance to submissive alignment with generic standards. In this context, the following paper will consult recent views on genre and genre modelling in an effort to elucidate how W. B. Yeats’s “September 1913”, by embodying prominent generic features of poetry and elegy, can be read as a model of compound generic deviations. This makes the work a modelled piece that resists generic categorization and testifies to the poet’s strategic unwillingness to irretrievably engage with the nationalist cause.


deviation, elegy, genre, romantic nationalism