Space and Time Panel
Reinvention After Recovery: Yeats’ Conception of Time and its Role in his Later Works
Matthew DeForrest (Johnson C. Smith Unviersity)
W. B. Yeats conceptualized time differently from his contemporaries and most of his fellow poets. Most view and employ time as a progression or as a metaphorical being. Yeats, like William Blake, also engages with time and its relationship to the eternal—all time perceived in a single instant. While the mix of bardic, folkloric, and metaphysical outlooks fundamentally impacted his outlook and his work in his early and mid-carrier, he increasingly drew upon concepts from physics as he moved into his later career. Likewise, his work on the Historical Cones of A Vision sharpened his awareness of time and its role and purposes. In his later works, he draws these disparate sources
into a singular vision of time—one that shapes and helps create his later poems (e.g., “Sailing to Byzantium”) and plays (e.g., The Hour Glass, Words Upon the Window Pane and The King of the Great Clock Tower). And while this work was part of a broader Modernist concern with time (consider Marcel Duchamp’s “Nude Descending a Staircase, No. 2”), Yeats’ philosophical and metaphysical concerns led him along different paths than those followed by the majority of Modernists.
Passionate Syntax: Yeats’s Tempo and Temporality
Yuki Tanaka (Washington University in St. Louis)
Although Yeats emphasized his desire to write in “a powerful and passionate syntax,” there have been few accounts of what he meant by this phrase. In my paper I will argue that there is a close link between his syntactic tempo and temporality, and that a consideration of Yeats’s syntactic energy allows us to differentiate him from his modernist peers, T. S. Eliot and Ezra Pound. In their poetry Eliot and Pound juxtaposed different times periods through paratactic syntax, creating the mechanical rhythm of piling up one phrase after another, as if the self behind syntax is overwhelmed by the flux of temporal experience and unable to order it except through cataloguing each passing moment. In contrast, Yeats preferred to write in a long periodic sentence that often sounds grammatically odd, sweeping up syntactic fragments into hypotactic order. This forcedly controlled syntax registers the presence of a speaker domesticating the chaos of modern and historical time to his subjectivity rather than being drowned in it. I will explore this parallel by looking at examples from Yeats’s historically-minded poems, including “Leda and the Swan.” I will argue that Yeats’s “powerful and passionate syntax” is designed to resuscitate the immediacy of a poet speaking in the present moment and hence resists the kind of temporal diminution that pervades the poetry of Eliot and Pound.
W. B. Yeats’s Lateness in A Vision (1937)
Chia-Lin Chang (張家麟) (Fo Guang University, Taiwan)
This study explores Yeats’s late work A Vision (1937) in one particular notion of late style—“lateness” as an extreme occasion of subjectivity in crisis expressed in the stylistic arrangements of the work. A period of caesura or coda is created, full of reflexive meditation on the self and its relationship with the world, with the corporeal self that must leave, and with the artistic self that is left behind. The meditating artist (re)presents such extreme moments of lateness in the work stylistically, rather than thematically, because for the artist, lateness means that the alliance between subjectivity and craftsmanship is being challenged. “Lateness” in this sense takes its shape on the theories of Frank Kermode, Theodor Adorno, and Edward W. Said.
With such notion of lateness, this study attempts to explore the lateness of W. B. Yeats in his prose work A Vision (1937). A Vision has long been treated either as a guidebook to the symbolism of Yeats’s poetry or as an embarrassing document of his esoteric interests, and the two versions, to serve such purposes, make only slight difference to the critics. However, in contrast to the “monotonous” former version, the later version of A Vision is so stylistically “antithetical” (in Yeats’s own word) that it is hard not to take it in its own merit as a fiction, in which lateness is dialectically expressed in the arrangements of multiple personalities of W. B. Yeats, the multiple plots for the source of the esoteric wisdom, the dialogical interaction between subjects, and the progress of plots between genres. Hopefully such reading opens possibilities of re-reading Yeats’s A Vision and poetic and dramatic works as well, to convey the antithetical interaction between his work and personality.