Yeats & Asia: Imagining Asia through Yeats, Imagining Yeats through Asia

For some people the association of Yeats with Asia will suggest references to Byzantium, for others it will suggest Theosophy, the influence of Mohini Chatterjee, Occultism, Rabindranath Tagore or the Upanishads, and others still will think of Nōh theatre, masks, his fugitive use of Zen koans from D.T. Suzuki or the gyres as a version of Yin and Yang. Yeats made both explicit
references to Asian matters in his works, like the Buddha in “The Statues”, and implicit references that might be evident to Asian readers yet otherwise be opaque, like the “polished mirror” in Per Amica Silentiae

There is of course the vexed and vexing question of “Asia” itself, and what it might mean, if indeed it means any one thing. For the ancient Greeks it was the far shore of the Aegean Sea, the opposite and “Other” of their “Europe”, long before Edward Said called attention to the implications and consequences of “Orientalism”. Eurocentric discourse continues to speak of East Asia, if not the Far East, establishing its own vantage point as the defining norm. Some Chinese experts refer to Europe as the Far West. The Americas bordering on the Pacific Ocean have to “go West” to get to “the East”.

Many experts doubt that Yeats really or “correctly” understood the Asian cultural references that he found inspiring for his work and cherry-picked for his own purposes. Others doubt that it really mattered, since he turned everything he touched to his own idiosyncratic use anyway. Yeats’ work is abundant (14 volumes of Collected Works, the Cornell Yeats editions of manuscripts of plays and poems, more than 8,000 letters in the electronic edition, archival material) and varied (poetry, drama, folklore, fiction, essays, lectures, speeches, memoirs, and letters). Yeats’s “Asia” pervades much of it.

This symposium will be dedicated, on the one hand, to the uses that Yeats made of “his” Asia and the extent to which Euroamerican readers have appreciated this use, and on the other, to the uses that Asians have made of Yeats and to the elements of Yeats’ work that Asians perceive to be pertinent from an Asian point of view. It will broaden the base of Yeats Studies and bring new fields and experts to bear on Yeats.

Recordings of all 5 plenary talks from the Barcelona Symposium can be found at

Plenary speakers: Joseph Lennon (Villanova University), Akiko Manabe (Shiga University), Carrie J. Preston (Boston University), Jahan Ramazani (University of Virginia), Gauri Viswanathan (Columbia University)

Scientific Committee: Alexandra Poulain (IYS Vice-President), Youngmin Kim (IYS Board), Yoko Sato (IYS Board), Sanghita Sen (IYS Board), Joseph Lennon, Anapuma Mohan, Akiko Manabe, Malcolm Sen, Sean Golden

The Venue: We will hold the symposium at Casa Convalescència. Our venue, once a hospital for convalescent patients, forms part of a famous Art Nouveau architectural complex that was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1997. The Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (UAB) was granted use of the building in 1969 to develop academic activities and consolidate the university