Monday 16 May. I am in Sao Paulo on my way to a conference and film festival in Florianopolis on the subject of "Irish Lives". Here is the title and opening of my lecture to give you an idea of what the rest is about. Follow on @CISLondon

Ghost in the Machine: Yeats, auto/biography and the medium of film

“I know now that revelation is from the self, but from that age-long memoried self [….] and that genius is a crisis that joins that buried self for certain moments to our trivial daily mind (YEATS  Autobiographies, 1980 [1955]: p. 272)  

“I have spent all of my life in clearing out of poetry every phrase written for the eye, and bringing all back to syntax that is for the ear alone” (YEATS, ‘A General Introduction for My Work’, 1937.)


Event associated with the ‘Yeats 2015’ celebrations last year confirmed what we knew. A hundred and fifty years after his coming into this world and three-quarters of a century after he passed into another, Yeats (hereafter WBY) made his presence felt: flickering on the screen, crackling in our ear, haunting us; from the past, his spirit spoke from the other side through the sound of his recited words, as they were voiced through the digital memory of the last machine.  Using a selection of moving images, this essay analyses the different ways in which WBY’s work and life have been treated on film, from newsreel and amateur footage, through to the much-celebrated documentary ‘tribute’ films and on to the most recent treatments for TV, online and art/installation exhibitions that constituted ‘Yeats 150’.  This essay shows how WBY’s afterlife has been rendered through film at different historical moments but also claims that film has acted as a medium, manifesting WBYs presence as part of a wider cultural and spiritual memory, that he termed the “age-long memoried self” or unity of being. Seen in this way, WBY is the ghost in the machine.