Conjuring Yeats

In section XII of “The Bounty of Sweden”, published transatlantically in both the London Mercury
and The Dial in September 1924, Yeats (in)famously conjures two forms to stand at his side onstage at the Swedish Academy: “When your King gave me medal and diploma, two forms should have stood, one at either side of me, an old woman sinking into the infirmity of age and a young man’s ghost.” (Au 535). By invoking JM Synge and Augusta Gregory, Yeats highlights the importance of collaboration in organised movements, societies, and schools in order to effect cultural and social change. Etymologically, coniuro in Latin and its later descendants maintain the prefix con-, indicating that whoever conjures, swears with others, in a conspiracy of at least two. From as early as his swearing into the Irish Republican Brotherhood in the 1880s, throughout his life Yeats was certainly a conjurer in this more archaic sense, as someone who bound himself to others even as he posed as the outcast poet. Creating and dissolving organisations, log-rolling with friends’ publications, shifting allegiances, staging coups and joining splinter groups, in his many arenas of action Yeats attempted to influence the world around him by collective effort – including the occasions when due credit to others was withheld.

The other, more modern meaning of conjuration is already implied in the act of summoning the forms of Synge and Lady Gregory to the Swedish stage: it involves magic. Having joined The Order of the Golden Dawn on 7 March 1890, Yeats became a full member of the Second Order as early as January 1893, and as such “he could now learn the use of magical instruments, talismans, invocation, conjuration, and scrying on the astral plane” (CL1, 487). Even if, later in life, Yeats reports that the “professional conjurer” who comes to Mabel Beardsley’s sickbed performs little more than parlour tricks to keep the dying lady entertained, Chris Morash has recently argued that because Yeats understood the theatre in magical terms, the conjuring of images onstage would be a way of influencing a much wider population than ritual magic in the context of societies like the Golden Dawn.

As a theme for the 2024 International Yeats Society Conference, Conjuring Yeats comes to Ouro
Preto, the homeplace of the “Conjuração Mineira”, an early separatist movement that sought to create an independent republic in the province of Minas Gerais. Its repression by the Portuguese Crown and the plight of the “conjurates” was incommensurate, and although other rebels had their sentences commuted, the public hanging of its main instigator, Lieutenant Colonel Freire de Andrade, known as Tiradentes, on the 21st of April 1792 took on the Christological imagery later associated to Ireland’s own Easter Rising of 1916.

This conference will enable participants to address a variety of topics,
including but not limited to the following:

•Yeats and secret societies;

•Controversies and organisations in which Yeats took part (including the lobbying for the Hugh Lane pictures);

•Yeats, his conspirators & collaborators;

•Yeats, rebellion and political strife;

•Yeats and magic;

•Conjuring Yeats in non-anglophone contexts: translation as transmutation;

•The theatrical stage as a space of conjuration.

The conference will take place on the premises of the Universidade Federal de Ouro Preto, mainly in the city of Mariana, where the Instituto de Ciências Humanas e Sociais is located, but also in the city of Ouro Preto itself. There will also be outings and events in other locations in both cities.

Please forward paper proposals (200-300 word abstracts, for 20-minute papers) or panels to the organising committee via Maria Rita Drumond Viana (m.rita.viana@ufop.edu.br) and Charles Armstrong (Charles.Armstrong@uia.no) by September 15th.

We are keen to support Doctoral students and unwaged academics. We do this by maintaining a reduced IYS membership fee and offering one travel bursary. The bursary is paid up to 800 euros as reimbursement on expenses incurred. If you would like to be considered for the IYS travel bursary please include, along with the abstract for your conference paper, a maximum 200-word statement outlining your case for support. This should include detail about your current research project and the relevance of the conference themes to your ongoing work. All applications will be considered by the conference organising committee/IYS executive Board.

Registration will open September 15th.

Please note that all participants must be paid-up members of the International Yeats Society. To sign up as a member, please use this link: https://internationalyeatssociety.org/members/