Symposium Abstracts

Symposium Abstracts

Elena Cotta Ramusino, University of Pavia, Italy

W.B.Yeats and the Orient

The nineteenth century saw an interesting coming together, in Ireland, of different issues which converged in the representation of the Orient: if, specifically, Irish links with the East went back to the Middle Ages, the Orient came to represent an important resource which offered the opportunity, in particular in relation to India, to discursively represent another colonized country. Independently from, but alongside imperial discourse, Celticism emerged as a primary issue in the period, so that, during the Celtic Revival, a closeness was perceived between Ireland and the Orient. Celtic elements often overlapped with Oriental elements: the Orient came to embody the place, the culture, the context and the values where the Celt could find viable models so strongly needed in the process of shaping the country’s cultural identity and creatively recovering its tradition.

Yeats felt the appeal of the East, onto which he projected desires and needs: in the Orient the poet seemed to find what Ireland lacked. Despite the different countries in which the huge extension from the Mediterranean to Japan was divided, despite their individual and fragmentary histories and cultures, Yeats, like most Revivalists, as well as European intellectuals, saw the Orient as unitary. The East provided, in Yeats’s eyes, a model of resistance against modernity, a society pervaded by spirituality and poetry, rooted in a tradition which connected aristocracy, peasants and poets.

In this paper I would like to explore the dynamics of Yeats’s fascination with the Orient, which can be considered as yet another instance of the poet’s appropriation of other places, an idiosyncratic Yeatsian procedure which enabled the poet to select what he needed in his progress on ‘the road to unity’.

Elena Cotta Ramusino has published on W.B. Yeats’s early poetry and on Autobiographies, on Seamus Heaney, on Elizabeth Bowen, Hugo Hamilton and on Neil Jordan’s novel The Past.


Ashim Dutta, University of York, Bangladesh/UK

[What] the Brahmin said”: Yeats’s creative appropriation of Mohini Chatterjee’s message

The Bengali Brahmin Mohini Chatterjee was the first Indian figure to have left a lasting impression on Yeats’s life and work. Meeting Chatterjee as a representative of the Theosophical Society in the early 1886 in Dublin, Yeats was moved by the words and wisdom of this quasi-exotic Indian personality. A poem that he wrote and published around that time, “Kanva on Himself”, put Chatterjee’s words imaginatively in the mouth of Sage Kanva, an ascetic character in the play Śakuntalā, by the medieval North-Indian playwright Kālidāsa.  Although this poem was excluded from the definitive editions of Yeats’s work, Yeats would recollect Chatterjee and his teaching of Indian philosophy in a 1900 newspaper article, “The Way of Wisdom”. Finally, in 1928, Yeats revised or rewrote the previously written poem as “Mohini Chatterjee”. Considering these periodic “reincarnations” of Chatterjee in Yeats’s oeuvre, this paper will offer a comparative reading of these three Chatterjee pieces. It seems from the extant evidences that Chatterjee’s talks focused on the Vedānta philosophy while touching upon the concepts of reincarnation and transmigration of souls. I will, therefore, examine the extent to which Yeats’s views on the Indian wisdom taught by Chatterjee evolved over time from a seemingly uncritical admiration or acceptance towards an active and creatively engaging appropriation of the Indian materials for his own purpose.

A Ph.D. candidate in the Department of English and Related Literature at the University of York, Ashim Dutta has been a Lecturer in English (currently on leave) at the University of Dhaka, Bangladesh, since July 2008.


Deborah Fleming, Ashland College, USA

Solitary Hero versus Social Man

W. B. Yeats’s 1920 play Calvary, never staged in his lifetime, is concerned not only with betrayal and redemption but also archetypes of betrayer and saviour, solitary hero and communal man.  Wanting to examine the psychology of the participants in order to evoke the meaning of the events and their importance in Western culture, Yeats chose the Japanese Noh form which could present these themes ritualistically, using a nearly-bare stage, simple dance steps, music (especially that of a flute), and a chorus to interpret the action.  I will argue that Yeats conceived of his play as an illustration of a basic distinction in his visionary psychology between objective men, who—however personally alone they may be—exist in relation to others, and subjective men, who exist for themselves “seeking always that which is unique or personal” (Yeats’s note, CW 2.696).  Yeats’s Judas responds to Jesus’s communal pity with the rebellion of the solitary man, betraying Jesus in order to free himself, not others.  Judas possesses the Nietzschean will to power in creating himself entirely by himself, defying God and fate.  He betrays Christ in order to assure his own damnation, which—he believes—assures triumph of will, yet in the end he is “chosen” to hold up the cross, demonstrating that neither he nor Christ has achieved freedom from the cycles of history they are destined to follow.  I will discuss Yeats’s use of the Noh tradition in creating the chorus, the three musicians who open and close the play, and the role of the three Roman soldiers who speak and move in ritualistic ways in order to convey to the audience Yeats’s system of whirling gyres of time into which the individual soul is thrown.

Deborah Fleming has published “A man who does not exist”: The Irish Peasant in the Work of W. B. Yeats and J. M. Synge (University of Michigan Press, 1995) and Towers of Myth and Stone: Yeats’s Influence on Robinson Jeffers (University of South Carolina Press, 2015).


Matthew Fogarty, NUI Maynooth, Ireland

The Falconer is Dead: Reassessing Representations of Eternal Recurrence in “The Second Coming”

The overwhelming consensus reached among those first to consider the relationship between the work of William Butler Yeats and that of Friedrich Nietzsche was that Yeats had adapted and developed various elements of Nietzsche’s philosophy as a means to lend a certain sense of legitimacy to a number of his own belief systems.  For instance, David Thatcher has suggested that, having already been acquainted with a ‘gloomy view of history from his reading of Indian philosophy and religion before his encounter with Nietzsche, Yeats seems to have benefited … from Nietzsche’s reformulation’ (Nietzsche in England 71). The ‘gloomy view of history’ in question refers of course to the concept of eternal recurrence; however, this paper will consider the degree to which Yeats was actually justified in finding any vindication for his occultism within the depths of Nietzsche’s philosophy.  While paying particularly close attention to representations of eternal recurrence in “The Second Coming”, this paper will further demonstrate that, in accordance with relatively more recent developments in Nietzschean studies, the complex metaphysical configuration presented by Yeats in A Vision now appears ever less attuned to Nietzsche’s philosophical vision and ever more compatible with the decidedly more Eastern metaphysics of Arthur Schopenhauer. 

Matthew Fogarty is currently studying for a Ph.D. at NUIM, where he holds a Government of Ireland Postgraduate Research Scholarship.


Dana Garvin, University of Limerick, Ireland

Geometric Transmissions: The Evolutionary Development of the Diagrams in W. B. Yeats’s A Vision

This paper discusses the evolutionary development of the charts and diagrams in Yeats’ A Vision, paying particular attention to some of the illustrations from the automatic script that were not included in the three-volume edition of ”Vision” Papers. Beyond the words of the texts (of the 1925 and 1937 versions of A Vision), the geometric images have their own rhetorical purposes. Moreover, those purposes change subtly during the genetic process through which the Yeats’ automatic script became the various versions of the system as WBY elaborated it. Understanding the diagrams will enable us to arrive at a better comprehension not only of the system but of those evolutionary changes—changes which themselves are reflected in the always-moving system.

Dana Garvin is a PhD candidate at the University of Limerick. Her doctoral research primarily focuses on the relationship between W. B. Yeats's A Vision and Oswald Spengler's The Decline of the West


Sean Golden, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, Spain

The Ghost of Fenollosa’s ideogrammic method in Yeats’ “Lapis Lazuli” and “The Statues”

The influence of Ernest Fenollosa’s draft essays and notes and translations of Japanese Nōh theatre on W.B. Yeats’ dramaturgy are well-known. He collaborated with Ezra Pound on the revision of Fenollosa’s translations and intervened to have some of them published by the Cuala Press. He was familiar enough with the manuscript material to use an unpublished version of Fenollosa’s translation of a kyogen play as the basis for The Cat and the Moon. But the most famous outcome of Pound’s work on Fenollosa’s manuscripts during the period when he shared the Stone Cottage with Yeats was not the edition of Nōh plays; it was his edited version of Fenollosa’s essay The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry. Yeats’ published work seems to be utterly oblivious of the famous “ideogrammic method” that Pound turned into a bulwark of Modernism. Is this another case of Yeats evading mention of an important influence on his work? There are elements of his poems “Lapis Lazuli” and “The Statues” that suggest that he was indeed aware of and did employ the ideogrammic method in his work.

Sean Golden has recently published “W.B. Yeats: From Sligo to Nōh via Ernest Fenollosa”, Moving Worlds. A Journal of Transcultural Writings (2016) and “W.B. Yeats on ‘Asia’ (and ‘Ireland’): An Ideogrammic Approach”.


Margaret Mills Harper, University of Limerick, Ireland

Balzac, Morris, Kagawa, and Captain White: Particulars and Universals at the end of A Vision

At the end of the 1937 A Vision, in the first paragraph of a section called “The End of the Cycle”, Yeats alludes to what seem a group of odd bedfellows: Honoré de Balzac, William Morris, Toyohiko Kagawa, and “a Communist” described by Captain J. R. White. Examining this motley collection of figures and the meanings generated by their assemblage sheds light on Yeats’s attraction to and revulsion from specific political ideologies in his last works. Identification with specific points of view gives way to an energetic conjunction, which is described in astrological and mythological terms in the remaining paragraphs of the short section. The intellectual and emotional movement at the end of A Vision demonstrates Yeats’s revised understanding of the occult system of the book, an apprehension that derives from deep reading in Hindu and Buddhist philosophy. Appreciating this change is important not only for reading the 1937 A Vision but also for interpreting the poetry and drama of Yeats's very last years.

Meg Harper is President of the International Yeats Society and co-editor of The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats. Volume XIII. A Vision. The Original 1925 Edition (2008) and The Collected Works of W.B. Yeats. Volume XIV. A Vision. The Revised 1937 Edition (2015).


Maria Kampyli, UCD

Asian influences on Yeats's key dance-themed poems in the 1910s and the 1920s: Towards “the whirlpool's motionless centre”.

The present paper examines the earlier 1910s and 1920s influences of Hindu and Buddhist schools of thought celebrating the idea of stillness in the midst of motion. This idea had a significant impact on Yeats's A Vision B (1937) re-conception of The Thirteenth Cone at “the whirlpool's motionless centre” (A Vision: The Revised 1937, 143), his unique conceptualization of the divine, which had continued to incubate in his mind long after the publication of the first edition of A Vision (A Vision A ) in 1925. The emphasis of the current paper is placed on the theme of the union of the dancer and the dance as registered in W.B. Yeats's poems “Among School Children” (composed in 1926) and “The Double Vision of Michael Robartes” (composed in 1918). The purpose of this exploration is to demonstrate W.B. Yeats's profound understanding of certain life-affirming strands of eastern thought as evidenced in his aesthetic output as early as the late 1910s and the 1920s, ideas which laid the foundations for his later re-conception of A Vision B (1937). This paper examines how Yeats's eastern understanding of the divine/Thirteenth Cone through the eastern concept of zero metaphysics as well as the complementary concept of “Unity of Being” as a unified concept of reality2 - a harmonious balance between the dancer and the dance, become significantly evidenced in his mature aesthetic work, long before he was starting to revise A Vision in the late '20s. This paper wishes to offer an original analysis in regards to W.B. Yeats's understanding of strands of eastern art and philosophy which offer a healing resolution to man's existential questions and a perception of the world through non-dualistic thinking. The purpose is to prove that Yeats in his mature phase had genuinely attempted to understand particular strands of Hindu and Zen Buddhist thought, in order to re-evaluate his own philosophical speculations. Through the above analysis, this paper aims to demonstrate how Yeats's understanding of the concept of zero in Hindu metaphysics (through his exploration of Tantric thought and his studies into Ananda Coomaraswamy's work), set the foundations for his profound understanding of the concept of emptiness in Zen Buddhist thought and art, and vice versa, culminating in his mature exposition of the eastern idea of the union of the dancer and the dance in his last verse of “Among School Children”, as well as of the dead O dancer in his poem “The Double Vision of Michael Robartes”.

Maria Kampyli received her PhD from University College Dublin in September 2015. The title of her thesis is Towards Zero Metaphysics: Eastern Mysticism and the unfolding of the City, Dancer and Mountain Mandalas in later Yeats.


Youngmin Kim, Dongguk University, South Korea

East Meets West: 3 Stages of Yeats’s Meditative Process of Dreaming Back, Return, and Phantasmagoria in Later Poems

In Yeats’s A Vision, Yeats provides the process of memory and knowledge of the past in terms of “Meditation” which is divided into “Dreaming Back,” “Return,” and “Phantasmagoria.” In the Dreaming Back, the Spirit repeatedly lives the events that had most moved it. The events “occur in the order of the intensity or luminosity, the more intense first, and the painful are commonly the more intense” (AV 226). If the Passionate Body (past) does not disappear, it haunts the Spirit (future) in the form of the painful dreams of the past. After this suffering, the Spirit finds the Celestial Body (timelessness). In short, pain and pleasure are the structural principles in the Dreaming Back. In “Return,” the Spirit is separated from the Passionate Body (the objects of sense which were made visible in the Husk) and from the Husk (memory of pleasure and pain). The Spirit lives “through past events in the order of their occurrence,” and is forced by the Celestial Body (timelessness) to “trace every passionate event to its cause until all are related and understood, turned into knowledge, made a part of itself.” After its imprisonment by some event in the Dreaming Back, the Spirit (future) relives that event in the Return and turns it into knowledge, and then falls into the Dreaming Back once more. There is another process of “Phantasmagoria” in the “Meditation” stage. “Teaching Spirits” work in the form of “Phantasmagoria,” and in this process of remembering the images of life, the Spirits exhaust emotion, but still keep pain and pleasure. Based upon the principle that “only that which is completed can be known and dismissed,” Yeats claims that in this stage, the human soul cuts off the incarnate and the discarnate from one another, plunging the latter into our unconsciousness, thereby completing life and imagination. Spirits which appear under the impulse of moral and emotional suffering belong to this state. In short, in the Phantasmagoria, spirits seek their own emotional or moral peace rather than the perfection of an event that concerns the living. At the end of the three phases of the Meditation, the events of the past life become a whole or a totality according to the code accepted during life and can be dismissed.

Yeats’s meditation reflects Buddhist meditation and Jesuit contemplation. This presentation will discuss how Yeats’s 3 stages of meditation in A Vision echo eastern and western ways of meditation as well how Yeats’s later poems, such as “Sailing to Byzantium,” demonstrate this process.

Youngmin Kim was President of the William Butler Yeats Society of Korea and has given lectures and seminars at Yeats International Summer School.


Alla Kononova, Tyumen State University, Russia/University of Limerick, Ireland

The contour cold as permafrost”:Siberia in the poetry of W.B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney

Siberia, the Asiatic part of Russia, is often viewed as a land of exile and misery where, according to J.C. Mangan, “no tears are shed, for they freeze within the brain”. However, this desolate territory appears to be an important place of destination for many Irish poets including W.B. Yeats and especially Seamus Heaney, for whom Siberia became an indispensable part of the personal poetic space. Yeats's knowledge of Siberia comes mainly from J.C. Mangan's poem of the same name and a book by B.D. Howard “Life with Trans-Siberian Savages” (1893), which Yeats owned, where the author describes his journey to the Siberian exile camps. Seamus Heaney became familiar with Siberia primarily through the translations of the memoirs by Nadezhda Mandelstam, the wife of the poet Osip Mandelstam – “Hope against Hope” (1970) and “Hope Abandoned” (1974), as well as through Anton Chekhov's account of his journey to the Island of Sakhalin.

Thus, the present paper focuses on the transformation of Siberia as a real geographical place into “Siberia of the mind” and tries to find out the meaning this part of Russia acquired in the poetic systems of the two different poets who lived in relatively different times. Interestingly, both for W.B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney, it became a metaphor and, to use Ronald Schuchard’s phrase, “an element of their own private mythology”, to which the poets referred when defining or questioning the role of a poet and in their search for the poetic truth.

Alla Kononova is a PhD candidate at Tyumen State University, Russia, and the University of Limerick.


Pawan Kumar, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India

Revisiting Myth and History through the East: A Study of Bird Symbolism in Yeats with Special Reference to “Leda and the Swan”

The depth of symbolism in Yeats’s poetry can only be fathomed by delving into, Yeats’s journey into and through the Eastern world of knowledge. It is well known by now that the images and symbols used in Yeats’s poetry and literary oeuvre have cross-cultural connections, especially Indian and Eastern, and a serious investigation of the same hinges on the possibility of a new literary system which Yeats, arguably though, initiated and probably mastered.

The proposed paper intends to critically engage with W. B. Yeats’s poem “Leda and the Swan” from a classical Indian perspective in the larger backdrop of the concept of cosmic-sexuality. In the Indian tradition, the symbol of Hamsa (Swan) is very significant: it recurs as a potent symbol in the myth of creation, the representation of self/soul, the philosophy of mind, the human search for ultimate knowledge/truth (brahma-jnana), the encounter/interface of mortals and immortals, the cycle of birth and death, in addition to being used as a metonym for passion and creativity. The paper will investigate how the symbol of the swan can be used to arrive at altogether novel, illuminating interpretations of Yeats’s philosophy about terrestrial and extraterrestrial beings. 

Additionally, the paper will also take the study of Yeats’s aforementioned poem further by making references to the Indian myth of the Rape of a NŒgi by Garu¶a and the story of the union of Garu¶a (mythical bird king) and the queen as depicted in a JŒtaka story. In a comparative framework, the paper will also critically analyze the significance of the sexual union between mortals and immortals in the mythification of history.

Pawan Kumar is a doctoral research scholar at the Center for English Studies, School of Language, Literature and Culture Studies, Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi, India.


Aoife Lynch, University College Dublin, Ireland

“Meru” and the Lure of Origin: The Supernatural Songs of W.B. Yeats

This paper will explore W. B. Yeats’s collection of poems, Supernatural Songs, as a form of generative capacity in writing which emerges through the inter-penetration of Western thought with Eastern philosophy in the poetic vision.  Despite the often overt Christian character of the sequence of ‘songs’, Yeats himself attested to this poetry as being associated with both early Christian Ireland and India. Thus, this collection sees the poet enmesh the cultures of East and West in a succession of poems to reveal his own interpenetrative ‘vision’ of otherness as creative. This paper will use the poetry itself alongside the Cornell Manuscript Materials to explore the creative genesis of this poetry collection as a form of writing.  Accordingly, it will consider the connections between writing itself as a form of otherness and philosophical understandings of the writing process in both Eastern and Western philosophy.

 The formal expression of writing as the lure of origin will be examined through Yeats’s use of different poetic forms throughout the Supernatural Songs, from the primitive tercets and couplets of the middle poems to the triumphant ending with the Shakespearean sonnet in “Meru” which encapsulates the inter-penetration of East and West in its use of form and content. In tracing the formal and generative elements of the poetry collection this paper will provide an understanding of Yeats’s use of Eastern and Western cultural traditions as the full expression of his own philosophical beliefs as set out in A Vision.

Aoife Lynch obtained a PhD on the late poetry of W. B. Yeats and the prose of Samuel Beckett from University College Dublin in 2013. She is a Member of the UCD Humanities Institute of Ireland. She has articles on W. B. Yeats in The Irish University Review and Etudes Irlandaises.


Sirshendu Majumdar, Bolpur College (University of Burdwan), India

Rabindranath Tagore’s Reception of W.B.Yeats

It is a fact often overlooked that if Yeats played a very significant role in introducing Tagore to western readers principally through his memorable Introduction to the English Gitanjali, it was Tagore who is the earliest major literary figure from Asia to write an appreciation of Yeats for his native readers. Soon after their meeting in London in June 1912, Tagore wrote an essay on Yeats for the Bengali literary journal Prabashi expressing his deep fascination with him. More significantly, this essay is the first of its kind that seeks to locate a close ideological affinity between Irish cultural nationalism and the cultural self-assertion that Tagore was attempting for India. Tagore thus reconstructs Yeats and appropriates him into the discourse of Indian cultural nationalism. In order to elaborate this argument I shall draw upon a few analogical and parallel moments in their histories that led to their ideological affinities and mutual appreciation and appropriation. Scholars of both these poets have generally been led to believe that Tagore’s interest in Yeats did not proceed beyond a few letters he wrote to Yeats, while Yeats’s interest in Tagore stopped after the three books of poetry in English translation that followed the English Gitanjali and his ‘Autobiography’. But Tagore had seen Cathleen ni Houlihan in 1913 which ‘haunted’ him, while Yeats had sent Tagore a copy of the reworked version of his The Hour Glass in 1914.  Further, Tagore had read two of Yeats’s plays in the USA in 1913 which had prompted him to translate his own play Sarodotsav into English. Scholars also think that Tagore did not keep track of Yeats’s later works. But, very recently, I have unearthed evidence in the Tagore archive at Santiniketan to demonstrate that Tagore did know Yeats’s later works. This convinces me not only of Tagore’s lifelong literary engagement with the Irish poet even after their mutual correspondence had thinned, but also impels me to assume that Tagore was probably seeking an ally in his differences with his younger contemporaries over the notions of literary modernism in Bengal.

Sirshendu Majumdar is the author of Yeats and Tagore: A Comparative Study of Cross-Cultural Poetry, Nationalist Politics, Hyphenated Margins and the Ascendancy of the Mind (2013).


Neil Mann, Independent Researcher, Spain

The Principles of A Vision: Ruskin’s Cat and the Upanishads

As Yeats revised A Vision in the late 1920s, he gained a significantly clearer understanding of major elements within the system through his reading of philosophy and, in particular, his engagement with the Upanishads, Indian philosophical traditions, and Zen Buddhism. This led to some radical re-evaluations of A Vision’s presentation, most evident in “The Completed Symbol” and “The Soul in Judgment,” with added emphasis given to the Principles and, with them, the processes of the afterlife, sleep, and dream; the connection of living and dead; and the nature of reality. Study of the Upanishads led Yeats to a clearer perception of the spiritual foundations of the human being and the relationship of mind to reality within his system, and the Principles are a key to understanding the system presented in A Vision B. This paper follows in part from the essay “W. B. Yeats, Dream, Vision, and the Dead” (Yeats, Philosophy, and the Occult [Clemson University Press, 2016—forthcoming]), which traces aspects of sleep, dream, and afterlife as far as the automatic script and A Vision A.

Neil Mann has written widely on Yeats, his occult interests, and A Vision. He created and maintains the website, and is currently writing an introduction to A Vision.


Andrey Mashinyan, Director of the Irish Cultural Centre, St. Petersburg, Russia

W.B. Yeats’s Interpretation of the Vedantic Philosophy and his “Karma of History” in the Selected Poems of the 1910s and “Plays for Dancers”.

My paper will focus on the poetic and dramatic realization of the significant elements from the ancient Indian religious philosophy of Vedanta in W.B. Yeats’s renewed mythological system of the 1910s. I plan to explore mainly how the basic principles of the Sansara Wheel and the chain of transfiguration influenced Yeats’s system of new leitmotif images in his poems from the collections “The Wild Swans at Coole” and “Michael Robartes and the Dancer” and his first three plays for the dancers, “At the Hawk’s Well”, “The Only Jealousy of Emer” and “The Dreaming of the Bones”.

In the central part of my paper I attempt to demonstrate how the complicated poetic and dramatic imagery of the greatest Irish mythologist of the century paradoxically unites his interest in the ancient Indian knowledge with what he regarded as the sources for the restored Irish national myth. This unity apparently resulted in Yeats’s specific ideas about “The Phases of the Moon” and his reaction to the crucial social context: the Easter Rising, the War for Independence and the Civil War. It was expressed in his literary works and later in “A Vision”.

In the conclusion I intend to speak about Yeats’s gradual transformation as a national writer and a social prophet from the 1910s to the 1920s, from a leading poet-fili of the Celtic Revival to the outstanding philosopher and myth-creator who never stopped to implement the ideas, influenced by the Indian religious philosophy, in his own late poetry and playwriting.

Andrey Mashinyan is the Director of the Irish Cultural Centre in St. Petersburg, Russia, at the Faculty of Philology of the St. Petersburg State University.


Laura McCloskey, Trinity College Dublin, Ireland

Imagining an “Irish” Nation: Orientalism and Celticism in the Work of William Butler Yeats and James Cousins

At the beginning of the twentieth century, Ireland experienced unprecedented literary and political movements that sought to give historical and governmental legitimacy to this small nation on the outskirts of the crumbling British Empire. Writers such as William Butler Yeats and James Cousins combined Asian and Middle Eastern thought with legendary Celtic imagery to create powerful and captivating poetry, drama, and prose that sparked an imaginative nostalgia for Ireland’s past and invigorated nationalist sentiment and hope for a free Irish state. Transforming the transitional period between Romanticism and Modernism, these authors were able to infuse Orientalist constructs and imagery with the common Romantic pastoral convention and thus appeal to the modern Irish thirst for cultural identity.

Joseph Lennon postulates that “Celtic-Orientalist comparisons allowed Irish writers to rhetorically assert both their proximity to the metropole, or center of the Empire, and their proximity to the periphery, depending on the context, audience, and purpose of their argument or representation.” Termed Irish Orientalism by contemporary scholars, this theosophy is apparent in its simplest forms in much of Yeats’ early poems, such as The Indian Upon God, and is intertwined with Celticism in his later works such as The Double Vision of Michael Robartes. Similar Orientalist influence can be seen in James Cousins’ The King’s Wife. Irish Orientalism was a powerful force in the Literary and Celtic Revivals and in the nationalist cause because it transformed the idea of Irish heritage and imbued it with an international anthropological uniqueness derived from centuries old eastern traditions. This paper will explore the visual and literary conventions employed with the work of Yeats and Cousins, with particular attention to the blending of Indian and Celtic Irish elements present in Yeats' early writings.

Laura McCloskey is entering her second year of the Ph.D. in Art History at Trinity College, Dublin.


Ragini Mohite, University of Leeds, UK

W.B. Yeats and the Purgatorial Model of ‘Caste’

In this paper, I will examine Yeats’s play Purgatory and the social patterns of lineage and inheritance set up within it. The play—frequently examined in critical studies of Yeats’s eugenics—presents a social model that is reminiscent of the orthodox caste system of India. I will examine the relationship between the Old Man and the ghost of his mother to highlight the regulation of female sexual behaviour that is shared by the Indian caste system and Yeats’s own social model. I will also study the relationship between the Old Man and the Young Man to argue that Yeats’s model is preoccupied with the economics upon which the caste system is also heavily dependent.

While Yeats’s later works, including On the Boiler, are saturated with eugenic concerns, Purgatory—which concludes On the Boiler—illustrates the degeneration of the very social model set up by Yeats in his other writings, and which is implicit in A Vision. I will argue that the degeneration of the family and the ‘caste’ model set up in Purgatory illustrates the vulnerability of his own model to the gyring patterns of history. Given Yeats’s interest in Indian scripture and his interactions with Rabindranath Tagore, Mohini Chatterjji and Shri Purohit Swami, the echoes of the ‘caste’ model in his works indicate a concern with totalising social systems, examining which can nuance critical studies of eugenics in Yeats’s works.

Ragini Mohite has recently submitted her PhD at the University of Leeds. She works on the twentieth century writings of W.B. Yeats and Rabindranath Tagore.


Sabine Lenore Mueller, Zhejiang International Studies University China

“Ascetic, pupil, hard stone” - W. B. Yeats's Construction of the 'Eastern Gaze' and his Poetics of Renunciation

The goal of this paper is to explore and better understand the role and ambiguity of gazes directed from East to West in the works of W. B. Yeats. Asian art and Asian people depicted on artifacts are not only framed as bearer of the gaze but are, in an unsettling and uncanny manner, 'looking back' at the West and at the reader. Just as R. M. Rilke's archaic torso of Apollon looks back and urges its beholders to change their life, the presence of the carved Chinese stone in “Lapis Lazuli” assumes agency and as Jerusha McCormack puts it, writes the poet rather than becoming written by him. This paper will explore the ways in which Yeats constructs the Eastern gaze arguing that beyond Orientalist projections and impositions of power binaries, Yeats's work conceives East and West as a dynamic, interactive duo-unity of viewer and viewed, creator and created.

The Eastern glance articulated in his works puts the reader and speaker at risk. Eyes that are 'glittering' and 'ancient' or 'blank' and 'pitiless', hover uncertainly between objecthood and agency and extend a 'zone of non-knowledge' in the sense Giorgio Agamben uses this term in his book The Open (L'aperto. L'uomo et l'animale, 2002). In this zone clear definitions, the safety of closure and differentiation of Self and Other are renounced, as renunciation, in turn, becomes a central strategy and predominant theme in Yeats's later poetry. In the occult system of A Vision Yeats aligns himself with antithetical phase 17, which is associated with the West, yet his Mask, understood as “form created by passion to unite us to ourselves” (AVA 18) embodies the primary, objective East, making his artistic creations strive for “something hard and cold, some articulation of the Image which is the opposite of all that I am in my daily life and all that my country is” (Autobiographies 274).  Yet when hoping for  a “half-asiatic masterpiece” to be brought forth by future generations of Irish poet, such an ambition cannot be achieved, it can merely “start up amid our averted eyes” (Later Essays, 1994, 173).

Sabine Lenore Mueller held a Lady Gregory Research fellowship at the National University of Ireland Galway, where she completed her PhD dissertation on the environmental philosophy of W. B. Yeats and R. M. Rilke.


David O’Grady, Independent Researcher, Ireland

Yeats’s Epitaph and Esoteric Buddhism

The epitaph’s unconventional aphorism and the closing command to the mysterious horseman have withheld their essential mystery since the poet’s death in 1939.

A close analysis of the lines suggests the influence of certain Buddhist texts in its composition: Essays on Zen Buddhism by DT Suzuki, The Tibetan Book of the Dead and The Gateless Gate.  A translation of this last, published in 1934, is shown to provide a possible key to the command ‘Horseman, pass by’.  A fresh interpretation of the epitaph is derived from these references: the epitaph confirms that the speaker has achieved enlightenment, thereby emancipating his spirit from the cycle of death and rebirth.

David O’Grady’s essay “Yeats and Zen and a Horseman Passing By” has been published in New Hibernia Review, Autumn, 2016.


Wit Pietrzak, University of Łódź, Poland

Confucian agenda in Yeats’s theory of culture

Given his reference to Confucius in one of the dedications at the opening of Responsibilities, Yeats must have become familiar with the philosopher’s work through Ezra Pound, who read the Chinese philosopher during the winter of 1913-1914 when he stayed with Yeats in the Stone Cottage. In the winter of 1916, again with Yeats in the Stone Cottage, Pound was working on Fenollosa’s essay ‘The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry’. It is over that period of time that Yeats would have been introduced to some of the tenets of Confucian philosophy, which percolated through to his introduction to The Classic Noh Theatre of Japan.  In my presentation, I will argue that in the introduction to the plays as well as some articles on theatre from the period between 1914 and 1919, Yeats consistently, if silently, employs Confucius to delineate his idea of poetical culture: an elite society of people who recognise that it is the arts, specifically poetry and poetic drama, that constitute the core of the society’s ideals not only in terms of aesthetics but more importantly ethics. Looking at Confucius’ Ta Hsio: The Great Digest, as rendered into English by Pound, I posit that Yeats’s notion of poetical culture follows closely such Confucian dicta as rectitude and perpetual search for greater appreciation of wisdom both in oneself and in others.

Wit Pietrzak has published several books of criticism, most recently “Levity of Design.” Man and Modernity in the Poetry of J. H. Prynne and Careful, Poetry. Essays on English-Language Poets (in Polish). He is currently completing a monograph on Yeats’s theory of poetical culture.


Alexandra Poulain, University of Paris 3 - Sorbonne nouvelle, France

Paradoxical presence in Calvary and The Dreaming of Bones: re-inventing the Easter Rising

This paper looks at two of Yeats’s Plays for Dancers, Calvary and The Dreaming of the Bones, as dramatic responses to the Easter Rising—the former an oblique comment on the Passion play of Easter 1916, while the latter is explicitly set in the immediate aftermath of the events—and argues that Yeats appropriates the conventions of Noh theatre in order to experiment with paradoxical modalities of presence on the stage, bringing together past and present, world and otherworld, and challenging the naturalistic conception of the theatrical character by disjoining body from voice. These experiments, I suggest, ultimately conspire to create alternative, deeply ambivalent narratives of the Easter Rising.

Alexandra Poulain has published books about Tom Murphy and Samuel Beckett, has edited and co-edited several volumes on theatre, including Hunger on the Stage (2007, Passions du corps dans les dramaturgies contemporaines (2010) and Tombeau pour Samuel Beckett (2015). Her latest book, Irish Drama, Modernity and the Passion Play, is forthcoming with Palgrave Macmillan. 

Barry Sheils, University College Dublin, Ireland

Sun Kyoung Yoon, Hankuk University of Foreign Studies, South Korea

Contrapuntal Yeats

Edward Said has spoken of understanding various writers and works of world literature contrapuntally: “that is, as figures whose writing travels across temporal, cultural and ideological boundaries in unforeseen ways to emerge as part of a new ensemble along with later history and subsequent art.”

This paper aims to read Yeats “contrapuntally” as a writer of world literature. More specifically, it aims to identify a point of connection between the production and reception histories of Yeats’s work through the question of translation. The first movement concerns Yeats’s own work as a translator of Asian works (albeit a translator at one remove through Tagore, Pound and Fellonosa, and  Shri Purohit Swami) as it helped produce a global literature in English. In this respect, Asia is paradoxically both a resource of ancient religion and philosophy and a modernist textual effect, exemplifying new culturally hybrid and glossarial forms of writing. 

The second movement concerns translation of Yeats’s work into Asia, specifically the Yeatsian traces discernable within the work of the national Korean poet Sowol Kim. The analogy between Irish and Korean literatures on the grounds of folkloric nationalism and the politics of decolonization, or the influence of Yeats on Kim is fairly well established already; however, this paper, by focusing on particular works of creative translation, opens the question of national literature to the world space. Eok Kim’s creative Korean translations of Yeats’ poems played a key role in connecting the two poets: for example, the most popular and national Korean poem ‘Jindallae-kkot’ was inspired by Yeats’ “He wishes for the cloths of Heaven” through Eok Kim’s translation, “Dreams”. By emphasizing the transnational mobility which underlies the production and reception of Yeats’s works, and the function of creative (mis)translation as it extends but also potentially challenges the dominance of a world literature in English, this paper understands the native and the national as always being in translation.

Dr Barry Sheils is currently a Lecturer at Durham University, UK. His book W.B. Yeats and World Literature: the subject of poetry came out in 2015. He has also published on Yeats in journals, including New Literary History, Irish Studies Review and Nordic Irish Studies.

Dr Sun Kyoung Yoon is currently post-doctoral researcher at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies. Her article, ‘Popularising Homer: E. V. Rieu’s English prose translations’ was published in The Translator in 2014.


Melinda Szuts, NUI Galway, Ireland

Space and Place in Yeats’s Noh-Inspired Dance Plays

This analysis tries to investigate Yeats’s Dance Plays from a dramaturgical perspective, focusing exclusively on the playwright’s handling of space on the page and on the stage. The investigation builds upon the idea that Yeats’s general understanding of the dramatic space of play texts and his own principles for dramaturgical composition for actualised theatre spaces have changed drastically after his indirect encounters with Japanese theatre. This conceptual and practical change which became manifest in his Noh-inspired dance plays was largely due to Yeats’s indebtedness to the “space-consciousness” of Japanese theatre both in theory and in practice. In my paper I will attempt to trace those aspects of the Noh theatre’s space dramaturgy (both conceptual and practical) which might have had the greatest influence on the development of Yeats’s very own theatrical language, and which later grew to become the most important compositional elements of his plays’ space-world.

The analysis will mostly focus on the text and the existing and possible stage adaptations of At the Hawk’s Well, in the light of those aspects of space dramaturgy (dramatic space, theatre space, stage space, movement and stage placement) which might have their roots in the unique Japanese theatre tradition.

Melinda Szuts is a graduate of Eötvös Loránd University, Budapest. She is a founding member of the Hungarian Yeats Society (affiliated with the International Yeats Society and the Yeats Society in Sligo), and directed At the Hawk’s Well in Hungarian


Kathryn Wills, Glasgow University, UK

“I’th’East my pleasure lies”: Byzantium, Desire and the Contested Image

Yeats is preoccupied by Byzantium, which for him means, at various points, a place, a specific historical period and a spiritual mood. In his Byzantium poems, the place becomes a kind of earthly Purgatory and Paradise, a place for the soul to undergo its after-death states. This suggests that the place has personal mythic resonance for Yeats, even if its actual history or population was constituted differently, and that even the gifted craftsmen in A Vision “Dove or Swan”, may be more archetypal self-projections than fully delineated characters.. Byzantium seems to be a place in which spiritual desire may be experimented with.

In 1989 Yves Bonnefoy, a celebrated French poet and critic, published his translations of forty-five of Yeats’ key poems. His translations of the Byzantium poems provide both a commentary on and, occasionally, an alteration of Yeats’ ideas, especially those which deal with images. Using the phenomenology of the contemporary philosopher Jean-Luc Marion in Being Given, I will examine what kind of images of Byzantium these two poets are using, and their differences in use. To what extent are Yeats’ images idols in Marion’s terms – conveying a sense of some idealized, glittering form, but being ultimately unsatisfying, because unable to access the divine threshold, simply reflecting the observer’s gaze? Bonnefoy’s sense of the image is different, and his detailed exploration of Yeats’ writing causes him to feel that for him, Bonnefoy, Byzantium constitutes a Gnostic temptation. To what extent do his versions of the Byzantium poems reflect this temptation and suggest that idols must be purged to allow for the presence actuated by the icon, an image which allows access to the divine. What are the implications of such changes for our reading of Yeats’ poetry?

Kathryn Wills is a PhD researcher at Glasgow working with David Jasper, exploring the philosophical and theological implications of Yves Bonnefoy’s translations of Yeats’ poetry.