William Butler Yeats is a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature and perhaps the greatest poet of the 20th century. His poems are among the most memorable in the English language. His words have become part of our language, as in “A terrible beauty is born” and “Things fall apart.”
In three sessions we will sample not just some of W. B. Yeats’ famous poems but also some of his plays and prose. With Lady Gregory, Yeats founded the Irish National Theatre and provided a space and institution at the Abbey where playwrights could celebrate and criticize the human condition. Yeats was a poet of the theatre.
Although rooted in his native culture and a senator in the first Irish government, Yeats claimed that “art is tribeless, nationless, a blossom gathered in No Man’s Land.” As Yeats said, “Out of our quarrels with others we make rhetoric; out of our quarrels with ourselves we make poetry.” And memorable poetry he did indeed create, as in “The Wild Swans at Coole”:
The trees are in their autumn beauty,
The woodland paths are dry,
Under the October twilight the water
Mirrors a still sky. . . .
ABOUT THE INSTRUCTOR
Christopher Griffin is from the “real Yeats country” in south Galway near Yeats’ Thoor Ballylee. His grandfather, also Christopher Griffin, sometimes decorated Coole House and brought Lady Gregory news of “the Troubles” 1919-23, so, like Yeats, he is quoted in her journals. Chris studied Irish literature in English at Trinity College and University College in Dublin, and presented a paper at the Yeats Summer School in Sligo. He has taught courses on Irish literature at George Washington University for over five years and at Politics & Prose for about 20 years. He will be a study leader on a Smithsonian Journey to Ireland in June.