Vol. 11 (2021)

Yeats’s Dreaming Back, "Purgatory", and Trauma

Chu He
Indiana University South Bend
Published June 16, 2021
  • A Vision,
  • dreaming back,
  • Purgatory,
  • trauma,
  • Yeats
How to Cite
He, C. (2021). Yeats’s Dreaming Back, "Purgatory", and Trauma. Studi Irlandesi. A Journal of Irish Studies, 11. https://doi.org/10.13128/SIJIS-2239-3978-12891


As few plays can compare with Yeats’s late play Purgatory with its probe into the tormented human psyche, this play can be viewed as a precursor to trauma plays we see later in modern Irish theatre. Yeats’s Purgatory not only deals with a subject of generational trauma accompanied by grinding guilt, shame, anger, and despair but also establishes many of the defining features of later trauma plays through its hybrid form of realism, symbolism, Japanese Noh, minimalist setting, linear-cyclical structure, etc. Yeats’s interest in spiritualism and occultism also allows him a few profound glimpses into psychological studies: Yeats’s A Vision, though viewed by many as his philosophical writings on mystic spirituality, contains some pioneering insights into trauma. By placing Purgatory in dialogue with A Vison, I want to acknowledge A Vision as the theoretical framework for the play, which, however, does not reduce the play to a mere illustration of the theory Yeats outlines in his A Vision, but rather, enables us to understand the complicated process of working through trauma.


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