Body and Spirit Panel

Body and Spirit Panel


The Dreaming of the Flesh: Yeats and the Body

Deirdre Mulrooney (University College Dublin)

Framed by considerations of Yeats and the Body; his vision for the Abbey Theatre Ballets, and for his own body, Deirdre Mulrooney presents her original research on, and experimentation with The Dreaming of the Bones.  Deirdre began this project with her 2005 interview with Doreen Cuthbert, original dancer the 1931 Abbey Theatre production of The Dreaming of the Bones (“Doreen – Telling the Dancer from the Dance,” RTE Lyric FM, 2011); her experimentation with the DIT Conservatory of Music to perform and record Walter Morse Rummel’s original 1917 score (“WB Yeats – Words for Music Perhaps," part one, RTE Lyric FM, 2013); her recording of Olwen Fouere and David Heap in their 1989 roles as the ghosts; her subsequent workshop with the Liz Roche Company at the Abbey Theatre using these recordings, dancers Katherine O’Malley, Alexander Iseli, and actor Muiris Crowley, composer/musician Ray Harman and Morse Rummel score (2014).  This will culminate in Deirdre sharing her vision to stage The Dreaming of the Bones, informed by these elements, at its original site, near Corcomroe Abbey, County Clare, in a collaboration with choreographer Jessica Kennedy (of Junk Ensemble), and singer Tara Baoth Mooney, arranging Walter Morse Rummel’s original score, on Culture Night, 2016.  


The Labyrinth of the Wind: The Sacred Spiral of Death and Resurrection

Ryuji Ishikawa (University of the Ryukyus)

This paper will examine the ambiguous trope of “the labyrinth of the wind” that appears in “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen.” As Peter Hans Duerr, an anthropologist has documented, the seemingly incompatible ideas of death and resurrection belong to the sacred concept of the labyrinth prior to the Greco-Roman era. By exploring the Ur-function of labyrinths in the ages before the episode of Minotaur and Theseus, this paper aims to explain the essential meaning of the enigmatic labyrinth of the wind.

In A Vision, Yeats introduces two intersecting cones as the principal symbol of his esoteric symbolism, and the most complicated and interesting characteristic of the symbol is the kinetic tension of the two gyrating cones. As Karl Kerenyi, a mythologist, has suggested, the essential nature of labyrinths is epitomized by a spiral pattern. The labyrinth of the wind in “Nineteen Hundred and Nineteen” is supposed to form a spiral in the motion of the whirlwind. In addition, another labyrinth appears; it is the one made by a “man in his own secret meditation,” and the ancient tower where he is meditating is installed with a winding staircase. Eventually, there emerge two independent labyrinths with explicitly spiral figures in the poem: One is dominated by a female fury, and the other is the result of male adversity. The interrelationship of the two is yet unexplored but of notable significance when symbolical correspondences to A Vision, are concerned. This paper will thus examine the interrelationship by scrutinizing “the labyrinth of the wind.”


 “The foul rag and bone shop of the heart” to “le bazar de défroques du coeur”: Releasing Yeats’ Sacramental Acts in Yves Bonnefoy’s Translation of The Circus Animals’ Desertion

Kathryn Wills (Glasgow)

The Circus Animals’ Desertion is commonly read as a classic Freudian understanding of the psychological underpinnings of Yeats’ creation of images. Helen Vendler suggests there is also in it an attempt by Yeats to retreat into an idea of himself as a masterful writer of powerful tragic drama. The general critical argument goes – that his images are all the product of a sublimated sexual energy or his own love of beautiful images, including brittle self-conceptions, rather than a real concern for the people and situations he evokes, as he tells us in the poem itself. 

Yves Bonnefoy is the greatest contemporary French poet (born 1923), and he is a fervent admirer of Yeats. However, many of Bonnefoy’s translations of certain key poems by Yeats in the 1980s, seem to pick out and emphasise different themes from the ones Yeats is apparently articulating; Bonnefoy suggests that he is trying to release the original act which gave rise to the poem from its containment within language, by reliving the experience itself before writing his translation. Scrupulous fidelity to linguistic detail is less important than this sacramental exploration of the words, trying to locate what he calls presence amid the gorgeous trappings of images (this is incarnation for him).

So how does The Circus Animals’Desertion in Bonnefoy’s translation modulate the standard reading of the poem as a psychological treatise and echo Bonnefoy’s concerns with presence, finitude and the nature of the image itself (following his interest in contemporary phenomenology, especially the work of Jean-Luc Marion)? Does Bonnefoy manage to release a death-like sacramental act from the empty and ravaged “rag and bone shop of the heart” and develop Yeats’ own sense within the poem of his “heart-mysteries”? Might this become an affirmation of Yeats’ powerful images, even while demonstrating their incipient finitude?  


Artistic Affirmation in W.B. Yeats’s “Lapis Lazuli”

Irene Chan Man Chu (The Chinese University of Hong Kong)

Richard Ellmann argues that Yeats does not embrace either skepticism or belief but affirmations that are “valid within some limit” (241). These affirmations are not fixed but fluid and flexible in response to the fluctuation of the outside world, specifically in time of turbulence. Ellmann considers this conception of art as one that allows the “impossible” expression: “[w]e can keep silence altogether, but if we speak out we must do so in terms of some such hypothesis as affirmative capability”. Also, this concept of affirmative capability would be correlated to the concept of the sublime as it is associated with the human capacity for imagination and reason as Ellmann considers this Yeatsian conception as going beyond Keats’s Negative Capability to be resistant against “uncertainties, mysteries and doubts” for “the more solid fare of affirmations” (Ellmann 238). In this light, Yeats’s “Lapis Lazuli” will be looked at through the angle of the “tragic joy” as this affirmative energy in his old age.

Furthermore, Lyotard considers art as a creation of an alternate reality that keeps its vitality by a separation from the real world: Art “creates a world apart…in which the monstrous and the formless have their rights because they can be sublime” (Lyotard 96-7). Likewise, Yeats’s vision of reality is partly encapsulated as an oscillation between a materialist reality and a transcendent one. Thus, Lyotard’s conception of art and his re-reading of the sublime can shed light in our re-interpretation of Yeats’s poetry.