Body and Soul - A Guild Lecture

by Kenneth Wright, Friday 14th June 6pm

In his famous poem, ‘Sailing to Byzantium’, Yeats deplores the ravages of old age on the body. He tells us that ‘an aged man is but a paltry thing/a tattered coat upon a stick/unless soul clap its hands and sing/and louder sing for every tatter in its mortal dress’. He seems to be saying that the body must be transformed, transmuted, into some more immortal substance if the core of the person is not to be utterly extinguished. And almost in desperation, he calls out to the sages of his imaginary city, Byzantium, to come to his aid: I need you, he says, to ‘be the singing masters of my soul’.

In this paper, I use the ancient and quasi-religious categories of ‘body’ and ‘soul’ to explore the nature of psychic transformations. I discuss how these depend on external media for communicable form, as in artistic creativity (Langer), and how such created forms bestow on the raw material of living experience a protection against the depredations of time... (Read more)

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