2 Replies to “Friday, 31 July: Yeats International Summer School Lectures and Seminar”

  1. I found the seminars and lectures to be very interesting this week in that they each provided a new and distinct context through which to analyze Yeats’ writing. In particular, the lectures about Yeats’ interest in mysticism and the Occult, as well as my Occult seminar with Margaret Harper, truly showed me a whole new lens to examine some of the strangest Yeats poems. For me and a few of my classmates, it was clear that on some level, it definitely took some of the magic away, in that we were now understanding what he meant when referring to “the phases of the moon,” or exactly what kind of moment in time he was thinking about when he talked about the Second Coming. In my Irish Lit class last semester, we often talked about what his poetry symbolized in terms of his nationalist beliefs or feelings toward Maud Gonne, but we hadn’t much dipped into this field. Now, I had some sense of comprehension when it came to his spiritual beliefs and ideas, and poems relevant to them were less difficult to follow. I also think it sheds light on his perspectives regarding other people. In his manuscripts he categorized different people into different phases, attributing to them a number of characteristics distinct to those phases. Now that I know this, it’s apparent to me why he was so quick to paint different women and political figures as merely black or white in his poetry.

  2. It’s been a week in Sligo, and I’m already mesmerized by the place. Firstly, I’m happy to finally be settled somewhere. It was nice to be able to unpack my belongings and have a space to put them in. But more than that, the Yeats Summer School has been an amazing experience so far. Although Helen Vendler was not able to make it, I did enjoy Margaret Harper’s Occult seminar based on the phases of the moon. We did an exercise in which she assigned us different phases of the moon and told us what they meant. I had never thought to compare Yeats poetry that way before (although I’ve always had difficulty understanding Yeats poetry in general). I think what struck me the most about this seminar was how accepting people were of these mystical ideas that came up. Normally, I would have expected such an item to be challenged: like how could examining the phases of the moon be valid? How can you just categorize Maud Gonne, along with the other supposed ‘beautiful’ people of the world in a phase of the moon? It was then that I realized that I had to open my mind a bit: if everyone had challenged the idea, then how would any more discussion emerge from the topic?
    Additionally, I volunteered to read the poem “Leda and the Swan,” foolishly forgetting that it was a rape poem and blushing in front of my entire seminar. I enjoyed listening to Margaret Harper’s analysis of the poem: picking out different phrases or words that signify the fact that the poem is about rape, and how rape culture is still very much a part of our society today. This was truly an eye opener for me: the fact that a poem written so long ago contains an issue that is still very much a part of our society today.

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