“Surely Some Revelation Is At Hand”: Yeats, Disaster, And The Generative Void


  • Elysia Balavage The University of North Carolina at Greensboro


Spinoza, Kant, Hegel, Disaster, Void


In this essay, I extend the critical discussion of Yeats’s interpretation of crisis and catastrophe. To do this, I examine Yeats’s reading of nihilism and show that he adopts a generative formulation of the philosophy, one that is represented by the works of Baruch Spinoza, Immanuel Kant, and Georg Hegel. Together, their understanding of the idea removes the negativity of nothingness and imbues it with generative capabilities. Spinoza, Kant, and Hegel all illustrate the subject, whether the individual person or the idea of God and Nature, as using the void of nothingness for redemption after experiencing a dissolution of “everything.” I then interrogate the ways in which Yeats borrows representations of “disaster” from generative nihilism and executes this imagery in his later poetry, including Michael Robartes and the Dancer (1921), The Tower (1928), and The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1933). Considering his interest in creation that these volumes exhibit, Yeats uses the gnostic catastrophe of Spinoza, Kant’s reduction of the subject into a nonsubstantial void, and the Kantian and Hegelian sublime to diminish chaos to stillness. This allows him to extract the creative capacity from nothingness and imbue the void with creative possibility, an aim that he ultimately reaches at the conclusion of The Winding Stair.

Author Biography

Elysia Balavage, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Dr. Elysia Balavage

Lecturer of English