Cast a cold eye: Life and death in W.B. Yeats’s poetry

Research output: Contribution to conferencePapers


Acclaimed as one of the best poets in the 20th century, Yeats is seldom removed from the focus of critical attention. Yeats’s works in connection with the Abbey Theater, Irish nationalism, and his love affair with Maud Gonne have been widely explored. However, although not a few poems by Yeats focus on death, his attitudes to the inevitability of decrepitude and death have been understudied. In this paper, I plan to discuss Yeats’s early poems such as “When You Are Old,” and “A Dream of Death” as well as his later poems like “The Municipal Gallery Revisited,” and “A Dialogue of Self and Soul” for a comparative study of Yeats’s conception of life and death. Textual analysis aside, Derrida’s deconstructive reading strategy and his idea of death proposed in The Gift of Death (1996) will be brought into discussion. It is discovered that whereas in the earlier poems the life/death hierarchical opposition can be strategically subverted to help resolve his unrequited love affair, death in Yeats’s later poems means differently for the aging and mature poet laureate.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2016


Chang, H. (2016, December). Cast a cold eye: Life and death in W.B. Yeats’s poetry. Paper presented at The Australasian Universities Languages and Literature Association (AULLA) 2016 Conference: Love and the world, Victoria University, Melbourne, Australia.


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