Dr. James W. Flannery
W.B. Yeats Foundation
Winship Professor Emeritus Arts and Humanities
James Flannery’s mother grew up in an Irish-speaking family in West Clare and her father was a revered local seanachie, sean nós singer and traditional musician. Jim’s father was raised on the banks of the River Shannon near the legendary sixth century monastic community of Clonmacnoise. A deeply committed nationalist, his father fought in the Irish War of Independence while, as a singer, he was steeped in the republican ballad tradition that inspired Ireland’s struggle for freedom. Jim traces his own lifelong interest in Irish culture to the childhood influence of his parents.
A producer, stage director, singer, scholar and teacher, Jim has an international reputation as a specialist in the dramatic work of William Butler Yeats. His book, W.B. Yeats and the Idea of a Theatre: The Early Abbey Theatre in Theory and Practice (Yale 1976, 1989), is considered the definitive study of Yeats’s aesthetic of practical work in the theater. As a director, Jim’s imaginative stagings of the challenging plays of Yeats at leading Canadian, American and Irish professional and university theaters have won critical acclaim. From 1989 to 1993 he was the Executive Director of a Yeats International Theatre Festival at the Abbey Theatre, the National Theatre of Ireland, where his productions stimulated debate on a wide range of political, social, philosophical, religious and cultural issues while demonstrating that, when staged effectively, Yeats is one of the most radically adventurous and exciting dramatists of our time. Jim is currently preparing a book based on his wide experience as a Yeats director titled Memories and Prophecies: A Theatrical Analysis of the Plays of Yeats.
“Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms”
“Silent, Oh Moyle”
“Though the Last Glimpse of Erin”
“Dear Harp of My Country”
Jim is at work on another book/recording, Heart Mysteries: Traditional Love Songs of Ireland, that focuses on the nineteenth and twentieth century effort after Moore to carry over into English the genius of the Gaelic tradition in poetry and song. That effort had a powerful influence on the exquisite lyricism for which the poetry and plays of Yeats are noted. The long breath-lines of Yeats with their subtle moment-by-moment rhythmic changes and a delicate modulation of internal rhymes and half rhymes – all borrowed from the Gaelic language – were characteristic of Yeats’s unique poetic voice. As a singer, reciter of poetry and Yeats director, Jim is known as a master of these highly musical modes of expression. See the Heart Mysteries page on our website for a sampler of the pieces to be included in the recording as well as a description of the many variations on the theme of love to be explored in the accompanying book.
“Reflections on Celtic Spirituality”