Abstract

Floating (sometimes literally) throughout W.B. Yeats’s body of work is the severed human head that sings after death, an entity embodying the dynamic relationship between subject and object, being and non-being. The article traces the evolution of Yeats’s relationship to the severed head as symbol and prop to understand his ambivalence toward the object world of the stage. The symbolic severed heads of his early writing, such as the one found in The Green Helmet (1910), confirm his antipathy toward the material. However, three of his late plays feature severed heads as physical objects onstage. The King of the Great Clock Tower (1934), A Full Moon in March (1935), and The Death of Cuchulain (1939) all suggest that the unsettled and ambiguous prop of the severed head gave Yeats a unique tool to secure a human legacy and thus inspired him to recalibrate his relationship to the material world.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5286
Print ISSN
0026-7694
Pages
pp. 437-460
Launched on MUSE
2015-12-23
Open Access
No
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