Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
College of Humanities and Social Sciences
Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair
Naomi Conn Liebler
William Butler Yeats’s literary career consists of varied passions and interests. He had a life-long interest in the occult mysticism of the East and the West, and Indian philosophy and spiritual tradition cover a considerable space in Yeats’s mysticism. From 1880s to the end of his life, Yeats cherished a profound interest in the spiritual India which was periodically reinforced by his encounters with three Indian personalities: Mohini Mohun Chatteijee in 1886, Rabindranath Tagore in 1912, and Shri Purohit Swami in 1931. Each of these three Indians left a profound impression on his mind and influenced him substantially. Yeats also wrote about them in memoirs, autobiographical reminiscences, and in a substantial number of letters. He also wrote introductions for Tagore’s Gitanjali (1912), Purohit Swami’s An Indian Monk (1932), and the latter’s translation of his Master, Bhagwan Shri Hamsa’s autobiography The Holy Mountain (1934). These introductory essays by Yeats as well as his autobiographical reflections, letters, and occasional poems like “Mohini Chatterjee” and “Meru” are significant documents that help us understand Yeats’s cultural-political construction of India. Yeats’s conception of India is complex and ambiguously nuanced. There are times when he conflates the Indian and Western mysticisms or spiritual traditions. At other times, he attempts to distinguish the “spiritual” Indian civilization from the materialist civilization of the West, and the philosophically syncretic Indian vision from the dualistic vision of Western thoughts. Although in these works he often seems to betray a deliberate or inadvertent complicity with the dominant Western discourses, Yeats’s construction of India also challenges and reverses the Orientalist binaries, and attempts to provide an alternative representation of the Orient.
Dutta, Ashim, "W.B. Yeats's Construction of India" (2013). Theses, Dissertations and Culminating Projects. 827.