Final Deadline for Papers: August 25, 2023

Conference Dates: Wednesday 25 to Saturday 28 of October 2023

William Butler Yeats was awarded the Nobel Prize in literature in Stockholm in December 1923. This
was an event that in many ways solidified Yeats’s place as one of the writers of the twentieth century,
both home and abroad. The award placed him in the company of such luminaries as Rabindranath
Tagore, Rudyard Kipling and Knut Hamsun, and later laureates have ranged from Samuel Beckett and
Winston Churchill to Seamus Heaney and last year’s winner, Annie Ernaux. The award was an
important event in Yeats’s life, associated both with the elevated (in Yeats’s memories of the lavish
ceremony) and the mundane (as in anecdotes, such as the one involving the Yeatses cooking sausages
to celebrate the news of the award). Both Yeats’s lecture delivered to the Swedish Royal Academy,
‘The Irish Dramatic Movement’, and his travelogue ‘The Bounty of Sweden’, are significant parts of
his oeuvre, the former particularly due to the way in which he selectively singled out Lady Gregory and John Millington Synge when commemorating ‘the labours, triumphs and troubles of my fellow-
workers’ in the establishment of the Abbey Theatre.

This academic conference, organized in tandem by the International Yeats Society and the
English Department at Stockholm University, will celebrate the centenary of Yeats’s award. We invite
papers on a range of topics related to Yeats and the Nobel Prize, and we are especially interested in
papers that address the theme of elevation.
As a post- or late Romantic, Yeats frequently associated his art with ideas of transcendence,
even while his writings often were ironic about this matter or addressed complications or failed quests.
The play At the Hawk’s Well is one of many examples of the latter, also involving Yeats’s
characteristic linking of his art with the elevation of the flight of birds. The falcon of ‘The Second
Coming’ is another famous instance. Yet Yeats also wrote, in ‘The Municipal Gallery Re-visited,’ that
‘All that we did, all that we said or sang / Must come from contact with the soil, from that / Contact
everything Antaeus-like grew strong’.
Yeats’s desire for transcendence took a particular inflection through his lifelong engagement
with mysticism and esoteric societies. A Vision is a particularly important expression of this dimension
in Yeats’s writings, even if it can be traced throughout his oeuvre. There was always a religious
dimension to his writings, even if he early on dismissed Victorian Christianity. Religious rituals and
beliefs from a variety of cultures and contexts play an important role in his writings, involving him in
what we might today describe as a ‘post-secular’ mode of thought and artistic expression.
The consecration of Yeats as one of the great writers of the twentieth century affected how
other writers related to him. Traditionally, the status of being a master has involved having apprentices
or followers – hence the Swedish elev and French élève. Yeats himself was not always sanguine about
how such processes worked, as is evidenced by his poem ‘To a Poet, who would have me Praise
certain Bad Poets, Imitators of His and Mine’. Yet ideas of influence and artistic affinity were key to his career, ranging from his collaborative efforts as part of the Irish Literary Revival, and his embrace
of literary exemplars ranging from Rafferty to Shakespeare and the Romantics, to his theory of the
mask. With regard to the latter, it is notable that Harold Bloom developed his own theory of the
anxiety of influence in close dialogue with Yeats’s ‘Per Amica Silentia Lunae’.

Plenary speakers:

  • Roy Foster, Emeritus Professor of Irish History at the University of Oxford and Emeritus Professor of
    Irish History and Literature at Queen Mary University of London
  • Margaret Mills Harper, Glucksman Professor in Contemporary Writing in English at the University of
  • Marjorie Howes, Associate Professor in English and Irish Studies, Boston College
  • Paul Muldoon, Howard G.B. Clark ’21 University Professor in the Humanities and Professor of
    Creative Writing in the Lewis Center for the Arts at Princeton University

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

  • Yeats and the Nobel Prize
  • The influence and reception of Yeats – both in Scandinavia and elsewhere
  • Yeats and the sacred
  • Yeats and transcendence
  • Yeats and tropes of elevation, including the flight of birds and tropes involving stars
  • Yeats and the canon – for instance of either England, Ireland or other countries
  • Yeats’s influence on the cultural milieu of his time
  • Yeats as a public figure or intellectual
  • The history of the Abbey Theatre
  • The conference will be an in-person event (i.e., there are no plans for online or hybrid components).

The conference will mainly take place on the premises of the University of Stockholm. There will also
be some outings and events in other locations in the city of Stockholm, including the Town Hall of
Stockholm and the Nobel Prize Museum in the Old Town of Stockholm. The conference fee will be
100 euros, covering the conference dinner as well as coffee and lunches.

Please forward paper proposals (max 200 words abstracts, 20 minute papers) to the organising
committee via Joakim Wrethed and Charles Armstrong by August 25. Contact Joakim Wrethed and
Charles Armstrong: and

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