Topics for First Report and First Paper

(Sept. 3)--The Sidhe, the Tuatha de Danaan, and the People of Faery

The primary focus of this report should be on Yeats's use of the Sidhe in his poetry, plays, and prose: how he contrasts human endeavors with those of the Faery Folk. Your report should give the class a useful--but brief--explanation of the Sidhe and then concentrate of how Yeats translated or adapted this traditional material for his own metaphorical, philosophical, and psychological purposes in his work. For the report, you should use a few specific examples from his works to demonstrate and clarify his metaphorical transformations; for the paper, you should of course give a fuller explanation.

(Sept. 10)--The Red Branch Cycle: Fergus, Cuchulain, Conchobar, and Deirdre

After a brief, useful explanation of these traditional figures, this report should focus on exactly how Yeats uses these characters from the Heroic Irish Sagas for his own poetic or dramatic purposes: Fergus the reluctant king, Conchobar the practical king, Cuchulain the independent yet bonded hero, and the fated beautiful Deirdre of the Sorrows. The report should refer to a few specific works to help clarify Yeats's metaphorical methods; the paper should give a fuller treatment of what these saga heroes meant to Yeats.

(Sept. 17)--Tarot Imagery and the Hermetic Students of the Golden Dawn (2)

The focus here should be on what imagery Yeats borrowed from the Tarot and the Golden Dawn and then metaphorically adapted for his writing. A short, informative introduction to the Tarot deck and the occult society Yeats help to found would be helpful, but your primary concern should be on which images Yeats borrowed and on how specifically he used this imagery in his poems and prose, together with a few concrete examples in the report and a fuller treatment in the paper. See especially Kathleen Raine's Yeats, the Tarot and the Golden Dawn (Dublin: Dolmen Press, 1972). You may borrow my copy if you can't find one in the library.

(Sept. 17)--The Kabbalah, the Sephiroth, and the Tree of Life

After a brief introduction, this report should limit itself to the central Kabbalistic image of the Sephiroth and how Yeats incorporated its elements into his thought and his works. The arrangement of these ten emanations of En Sof, the unknowable God, suggests the various ways in which the adept could ascent the Tree of Life to divine consciousness or Keter. For the report give a few examples of Kabbalistic thought or imagery in Yeats's poetry; the paper should contain a fuller treatment. Yeats was introduced to the Kabbalah by MacGregor Mathers, the translator of The Kabbala Unveiled.

(Sept. 24)--Edwin Ellis and the Blake Edition

This report should give a brief description of Yeats's collaboration with Edwin Ellis and their work on a new edition of Blake's poetry: The Works of William Blake: Poetic, Symbolic, and Critical, 3 volumes (1893). The report should more especially focus on a full explanation of Yeats's interpretation of Blake's imagery (from the 1892 "Preface" and the 1893 "Introduction") and Yeats's use of Blake's ideas or images in his own poetry. The paper should deal more fully with Yeats's adaptation of Blake. See Yeats's "Prefaces and Introductions" to the Blake edition [available online and from me] and his essay "William Blake and the Imagination" collected in Essays and Introductions (Macmillan, 1961). See also works recommended for the next topic.

(Sept. 24)--Blake's Contraries and the Four Zoas (2)

This report should explain the structure of the Four Zoas and Blake's use of paired opposites and then go on to show--in a few examples--how Yeats used the "marriage of opposites" and the four-part structure in his poetry and his play On Baile's Strand. The paper should give a fuller explanation of Yeats's use of Blake's ideas and imagery and the relationship between the Four Zoas and Yeats's later development of the Four Faculties (Will, Mask, Creative Mind, Body of Fate). . Harold Bloom's Yeats (Oxford University Press, 1970) is a good place to start. See also studies of Blake and Yeats by Hazard Adams, Kathryn Kreman, Kathleen Raine, and Margaret Rudd.

(Oct. 1) Ezra Pound and Stone Cottage

Ezra Pound's association with and influence on Yeats is extensive. This report should give a brief summary of their relationship and then focus on Pound's influence on Yeats's poetry. The report should bring us a few examples, while the paper should go much further. See especially James Longenbach's Stone Cottage: Pound, Yeats, and Modernism for a full treatment of the topic. [You may borrow my copy if you can't find one.]

(Oct. 1)--Ernest Fenellosa and the Major Elements of the Noh Drama

Ezra Pound, who was editing Fenellosa's papers, introduced Yeats to the Japanese Noh plays. This report should give a brief explanation of the Noh Drama and then focus on Yeats's adaptation of the techniques of the Noh in his poetry and plays, with a few pertinent examples. The paper should have a more extensive investigation of the topic and of Yeats's principal Noh plays.

(Oct. 8) "Per Amica Silentia Lunae" and the Daimon (2)

The report should focus on Yeats's transition from the use of the Mask to the use of the Daimon as an active player in the creative process, especially as Yeats explains the process in "Per Amica Silentia Lunae." The report should give a few examples from Yeats's poetry and plays, while the paper should give a fuller treatment. See Bryant Hoffman, "All Imaginable Things: Yeats's 'Per Amica Silentia LunŠ'." Irish Renaissance Annual 1 (I980): 56-72.

(Oct. 15) Georgie Hyde-Lees and The Automatic Script (2)

Shortly after Yeats's marriage in October of 1917, his wife George Hyde-Lees began the practice of automatic writing and continued for several years; these transcripts are available in George Mills Harper's The Making of Yeats's A Vision: A Study of the Automatic Script. 2 vol. Carbondale: Southern Illinois University Press, 1987. The report should give a brief summary of the transcripts and then focus primarily on the relationship between the automatic writing and Yeats's subsequent poetry and prose. While the report should cite a few significant examples, the paper should give a fuller treatment to the topic. Brenda Maddox new biography Yeats's Ghosts: The Secret Life of W. B. Yeats (HarperCollins, 1999) also has an extensive and accessible section on the automatic script and Yeats's writing. See also George Mills Harper, ed. Yeats's Vision Papers. Iowa City: University of Iowa Press, 1992.

Warren Wedin <>
William Butler Yeats Seminar Homepage
Department of English
California State University, Northridge
August 13, 2002