Meaning of Byzantium in the Poetry and Prose of W.B. Yeats: The Long Schoolroom

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An exploration of the interrelationship among Yeat’s 1925 version of his prose work, A Vision; his two poems Sailing to Byzantium and Byzantium from the same period; and the Byzantine icon The Christ Pantokrator. The poems in question are undoubtedly Yeats’ most critically evaluated and frequently anthologized poetic works, and are certainly among the most significant poems of the modernist era. This work will bring all this preceding scholarship together in a single source, as well as formulate what then ought to be a resulting interpretation of those richly complex (sometimes impenetrably so) and symbolic poems.


“This new book on Yeats by Professor Murphy (who is editor of the Yeats Eliot Review) focuses on two aspects of Yeats studies that have been either downplayed or misunderstood in the past: the poet’s religious interests and his preoccupation with Byzantium…..Murphy’s book succeeds admirably in according Yeats’s interest in Christianity its due prominence, and in pinning down the poet’s knowledge of the historical Byzantium….Murphy’s book represents a substantial step forward in its treatment of Christianity and the Byzantine Pantokrator in Yeats studies. It constitutes a welcome antidote to the lubrications of the many practicing atheists who inhabit that field.” – (From the Commendatory Preface) Professor Brian Arkins, National University of Ireland, Galway

“….Russell Murphy’s new book is just such a ground-breaking venture. The cultural history of the reception of Byzantium poems is dominated by the notion that Yeats’s conception of Byzantium is invented, artificial, rich in symbolism but only vaguely connected to the historical reality of that medieval city. And as fruitful as this approach – insistent on the aesthetic and symbolic character, rather than the factual basis, of the city -- has been, it has almost completely neglected Yeats’s knowledge of Byzantine devotional art, and the significance of these facts for our understanding of Yeats’s poems and prose. In a bold re-examination of Yeats’s employment of Byzantium, Murphy attempts nothing less than a substantial revision of the critical tradition, steering our understanding away from the city as 'a fanciful locus of Yeats’s imaginings' to a medieval reality…..[This book is] a work of scholarship worthy of high praise, one that will have a lasting effect on aspects of our literary-critical understanding of Yeats.” - Rory Ryan, University of Johannesburg

Table of Contents

1. Some One Image
2. The Vera Ikon or True Image of Christ
3. Yeats and Byzantine History and Culture
4. The Dome in Ancient Funerary and Religious Art
5. The Origins of the Domed Structure in Church Architecture
6. A Supernatural Splendor: The Photographic Evidence
7. The Lessons of Sailing to Byzantium
8. The Emperor’s Pavement and Byzantium
9. The Long Schoolroom
Works Cited and Consulted

Other Literature - English Books