To “Beat Upon the Wall”: Reading A Vision

  • Colin McDowell
Part of the Yeats Annual book series (YA)


To what extent may we consider that A Vision is a completed work? Numerous readers have come away from an attempt to read the book with the feeling that it is radically flawed. Perhaps this is the case. Perhaps the whole idea that geometry can lead to a truth worth telling about living creatures is misconceived. If so, Yeats is not alone in his misconception, and such a judgment does not appeal to my sense of adventure. Readers who feel that way about geometry should leave A Vision alone, as they will have left Plato’s Tinueus to those who prefer such things. Perhaps, though, A Vision is not wrong in its conception, but in its execution: the way in which Yeats has tried to capture his geometric “truth” on paper is not adequate to the subject. This idea is extremely problematic: if we find the work so flawed that it obscures its own exposition, we have no way of knowing what idea it is against which we are measuring the imperfections. Yeats’s various statements about his intentions can be read in many different and contradictory senses, so they do not help in this matter.


Critical Edition Phenomenal World Eminent Domain Wide Expansion Public Philosophy 
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Copyright information

© Warwick Gould 1986

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colin McDowell

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