'Out of a medium's mouth' : Yeats's art in relation to mediumship, spiritualism and psychical research

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Iliopoulos, Spyridon
  • Subject: PR | BF

The aim of this thesis is to show that, despite a number of\ud critics who either frowned upon or ignored W. B. Yeats's\ud psychical interests, consideration of his mediumistic encounters\ud between 1911 and 1916 is indispensable to the study of his\ud art. Indeed, Yeats's unpublished records of seances and his\ud other spiritualistic papers often present us with his direct\ud sources of inspiration and point towards an understanding\ud of their subsequent elaboration in some of his celebrated\ud works.\ud Chapter 1 and 2 ('Yeats's Spiritualistic Papers' and\ud 'Yeats as a "Spiritualist" and "Psychical Researcher"')\ud supply general information as regards unpublished material\ud and describe Yeats's involvement with medium's, 'controls',\ud and 'spirit-visitors'.\ud Chapter 3 ('The Words-upon the Window-pane as an\ud Example') deals with Yeats's spiritualistic sources and\ud their dramatic elaboration in his seance-play, his only\ud work where he made direct use of a spiritualistic setting\ud and of the typical personae who frequent seance-rooms.\ud Although Yeats's other works are discussed-in a chronological\ud order, this play is given priority here, for it contains\ud some major, themes and motifs which pervade his art.\ud Chapters 4 and 5 ('Responsibilities: A First Attempt',\ud and 'The Wild Swans at Coole: Ghostly Presences') deal with\ud Yeats's attempts to introduce some major aspects of his\ud psychical interests into his poetry by 'invoking' his\ud dead and by adopting the persona of a medium in poems such\ud as 'To a Shade' and 'In Memory of Major Robert Gregory'.\ud Chapter 6 ('"Ego Dominus Tuus": Yeats, Leo Africanus,\ud and the Process of Self-transformation') deals separately\ud with 'Ego Dominus Tuus', another poem from The Wild Swans\ud at Coole, in relation to Yeats's encounter with his 'opposite',\ud the 'ghost' of Leo Africanus, and his formulation of the\ud concept of the 'Daemon'.\ud Chapters 7 and 8 ('Spiritualistic Scenarios in Michael\ud Robartes and the Dancer' and 'From The Tower to Last Poems')\ud examine Yeats's later use of theme's, motifs, and central\ud situations particular to spiritualism and psychical research.\ud Finally, the Conclusion suggests that, although Yeats's\ud psychical investigations did not answer the 'great question\ud whether the soul be immortal or not', his mediumistic\ud encounters provided with images, symbols, and scenarios\ud which enriched his art and often determined his literary\ud tactics.
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