A Critical Edition of Yeats's A Vision (1925)


The most baffling and misunderstood of Yeats's works, A Vision (1925), which is greatly different from the 1937 version, has been long out of print and is almost inaccessible. The editors have shown in introduction and notes how directly dependent Yeats was upon the experiments of his wife with automatic writing and dream visions (covering a period of six years and preserved in thirty-nine notebooks containing some 4000 manuscript pages). As Yeats wrote in the first draft of the Dedication, 'I declare that I have nto invented one detail of this system'. 'This task has been laid upon me by those who cannot speak being dead and who if I fail may never find another interpreter'. Although Yeats liked to quote Plato's admonition that none should enter the doors of the Academy who were 'ignorant of geometry'. The symbolic forms of psychic geometry outlined in A Vision were not in fact based on Plato, Swedenborg, or others of the classical writers Yeats often cited but rather on the experiments and thinking of his many friends and fellow students in the Order of the Golden Dawn and in the Society for Psychical Research. BY inquiring into the conception of A Vision and the circumstances and people surrounding Yeats while it was beign written, and by annotating the hundreds of unidentified allusions and references to art, philosophy, and literature, the editors have illuminated one of the strangest spiritual autobiographies of our time.
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GEORGE MILLS HARPER is Professor of English at Florida State University. He is the author of The Neoplatonism of William Blake, Yeats's Golden Dawn, there monographs in the Dolmen Press's Yeats Paper and many articles in learned journals. He si the editor of Yeats and the Occult, co-editor (with Richard J. Finneran and William M. Murphy) of Letters to W. B. Yeats, co-editor (with Kathleen Raine) of Thomas Taylor the Platonist: Selected Writings, and a contributing editor to A Concordance to the Writings of William Blake. A former President of the College of English Association, he has lectured widely on Yeats in Europe and America.

WALTER K. HOOD has been Instructor at the University of North Carolina, Assistant Professor at St. Louis University and is now Professor at Tennessee Technological University. Having written his honor's thesis, M.A. thesis, and Ph.D. dissertation (all at the University of North Carolina) on Yeats's thought and art and having lectured on and published several papers about A Vision, Professor Hood has devoted most of his academic life to the study of Yeats.
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Published on
Feb 9, 2016
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Language Arts & Disciplines / Linguistics / General
Literary Criticism / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh
Literary Criticism / General
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Rewriting "The Hour-Glass" presents the complete prose text of Yeats's one-act morality play of 1903, the complete "mixed" poetry and prose text of 1913, and all variants between and after these as both states were maintained in his lifetime. As a breakthrough play for Yeats, The Hour-Glass was commended in his manifesto "The Reform of the Theatre" (1903) and became, with significant rewriting, his first play to employ masks, by analogy to the Renaissance-era court masque, prior to his own adaptation of Japanese form and Irish content in his "plays for dancers." Like any critical edition, this book engages with and acknowledges all of the relevant texts, including Yeats's own corrected copies of the play. Consequently, the book unpacks and unwinds convolutions of the notoriously dual presentations of prose and verse versions in the Variorum Edition, reversing the procedure of the latter and permitting a more linear presentation of first and last states of the play, much to the benefit of students. Rewriting "The Hour-Glass" also traces the steps by which Yeats solved a problem. No sooner had he finished writing the play and prepared for its first performance and publication than he began to plan its revision. But he did not hit upon the solution until the play's most substantial rewriting in 1912. When finished, he had taken "the offence out of the old by a change of action so slight that a reader would hardly have noticed it" yet decided to keep the older version for playing in provincial towns and the newer one for himself and friends. Contemporary reviewers failed to notice.
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