Mysticism and William Butler Yeats

George Mills Harper speaks with Kent Mullikin about the life and writing of William Butler Yeats, with an emphasis on Yeats’s interest in the occult, which included experiments with automatic writing, and the presence of spirits or “communications” in automatic writing. Harper speaks about the relationship Yeats had with Christianity and his belief in cyclical history. Harper discusses characters who figure prominently in Yeats’s poems, such as Maud Gonne and family members. Harper reads the poem “The Second Coming,” which illustrates the roots of poetry in Yeats’ automatic writing, and the nature of political commentary in Yeats’s work.

At the time of this interview, Harper, a Fellow at the National Humanities Center (1981-82), was professor of English at Florida State University.

This edition of Soundings was conducted by Wayne J. Pond and Kent Mullikin, assistant director of the National Humanities Center.

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