Madame Blavatsky and Theosophy in 'Finnegans Wake': An Annotated List

Platt, Len. 2008. Madame Blavatsky and Theosophy in 'Finnegans Wake': An Annotated List. James Joyce Quarterly, 45(2), pp. 281-300. ISSN 0021-4183 [Article]

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Abstract or Description

We have long known that theosophy was of interest to Joyce, in part because of a well-known local connection—its practice by key figures of the Irish Literary Revival. Charles Johnson, under W. B. Yeats’s influence, met A. P. Sinnett and formed the Dublin Lodge of the Theosophical Society in 1885, an organization that, according to Ernest Augustus Boyd, one of the earliest historians of Irish revivalism, was

"as vital a factor in the evolution of Anglo-Irish literature as the publication of Standish O’Grady’s History of Ireland, the two events being complementary to any complete understanding of the literature of the revival. The Theosophical Movement provided a literary, artistic and intellectual centre from which radiated influences whose effect was felt even by those that did not belong to it."

Yeats, George Russell, and John Eglinton, all key figures in the Irish Literary Revival, joined the Society at various times. Both Russell and Yeats knew Madame Helena Petrovna Blavatsky personally, and both were deeply influenced by her. For seven years, Russell remained a member of the “Household,” a group of theosophists who lived together and formed the nucleus staff of The Irish Theosophist begun in 1892. This influential journal remained in publication until 1897 when it was replaced by The Internationalist, for which Eglinton wrote a great deal. Thereafter, the Irish theosophy movement, in parallel with the wider international organization, went through a number of breaks and schisms. Russell in particular, despite the upheavals, remained committed and active, especially in the later years as head of the Hermetic Society, until he left Ireland in 1933, just two years before his death.

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Social, Therapeutic & Community Engagement (STaCS)



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Date Deposited:

15 Oct 2010 12:44

Last Modified:

29 Apr 2020 15:49

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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