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Yeats’s Vision in Context

Project Description
Following on from the four-volume edition of the automatic script and other occult materials that were generated by W. B. Yeats and his wife George, née Hyde Lees, and the scholarly editions of both versions of Yeats’s philosophical book A Vision, a loose research network investigates aspects of the Yeatses’ collaborative esoteric work.

A Vision, the book Yeats sometimes felt was his most important work, was first published in 1925, then rewritten in the last decade of the poet’s life and published again in 1937. Both strange and difficult texts illuminate many of Yeats’s most famous and most powerful poems and plays. The ‘system’ outlined in both versions of the book is also unusually collaborative: it had its genesis in mediumistic experiments in automatic writing, which Yeats undertook with his wife George Hyde Lees beginning in late 1917.

The automatic script and other genetic materials (Yeats’s “Vision” Papers, Macmillan, 1991 and 2001) have now been joined by editions of both versions of A Vision in two volumes of the Collected Works of W. B. Yeats (Scribner, 2008 and 2015). I am co-editor of both editions of A Vision with Professor Catherine Paul of Clemson University, having also served as co-editor of two of the four volumes of Yeats’s “Vision” Papers.

The published books have been useful in making an important text more accessible to a range of scholars. In addition to feminist readings of their occult methods themselves, areas of study impacted by these published materials include the Yeatses’ relationships with Neoplatonism, Indian philosophy, Theosophy, spiritualism, Asian art, Idealist philosophy, anthropology, Italian philosophical and political thought, and modern theatre, in addition to world literature. Since 2015, panels and plenary addresses at conferences and symposia hosted by the International Yeats Society in Limerick, Barcelona, New York, Kyoto, and Paris (forthcoming) have focused on such topics. In 2019, the conference on Yeats and India co-hosted by UL and Nawaharlal Nehru University in New Delhi, India, featured a plenary address and several panels devoted to the Yeatses’ occultism. A volume of essays documenting the research presented at this conference is planned.

Principal Investigator
Prof. Margaret Mills Harper (UL)

Prof Catherine Paul (Clemson University)
Prof Dhananjay Singh (JNU)

External Partners
Clemson University (South Carolina, USA)
Nawaharlal Nehru University (New Delhi, India)


Project Outputs
Publications related to the project: A Vision (1937)

Other related outputs/outcomes: Articles and conference papers derived from the primary research; a planned collection of essays on Yeats and India; an MA thesis and two PhD dissertations by students who are helping on the project.