Esoteric Symbols: The Tarot in Yeats, Eliot, and Kafka

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9780761836735: Esoteric Symbols: The Tarot in Yeats, Eliot, and Kafka

In this pioneering scholarly work on occult symbols in literature, the reader is offered a vivid look into how W.B. Yeats, T.S. Eliot, and Franz Kafka―three masters of symbolic expression―utilized Tarot cards in their poetry and prose. Focusing on the Tarot's ancient associations with divine knowledge, its pictorial representation of both the Jewish and Christian Cabala, and the Tarot's more recent pedestrian affiliation with the occult, June Leavitt skillfully demonstrates how Yeats, Eliot, and Kafka align themselves in their uniquely individual ways with the Tarot symbols' mapping of reality.

Paying close attention to the mystical nuances of the Tarot, Ms. Leavitt shows how Tarot symbols allow for radically new readings of the texts in which they are situated, and play a transformative role in the three writers' search for God. This search remained indecisive for Kafka, resulted in Eliot's conversion to Anglo-Catholicism, and went hand in hand with Yeats' passion for pagan gods and angels.

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About the Author:

June Leavitt is an independent scholar and writer who has received much critical acclaim for her books and articles. She is the creator of a college course on spirituality in literature that she has taught at the Overseas Students Program at Ben Gurion University of the Negev in Israel.


Leavitt's book maps out the Tarot and its symbolic world in the sphere of literary criticism more clearly than any other work on this subject. For those who wish to more fully enter the symbolic world of Yeats, Eliot, and Kafka, Esoteric Symbols will guide them and enrich their understanding of a subject too often obscured by prejudice. Even though Yeats, Eliot, and Kafka wrote in an age of materialism, as artists they were nevertheless drawn to the symbolic world of the Tarot, rich in an iconographic language that is both subtle and seductive despite its rivalry with twentieth century cynicism. (Kathryn Sullivan Kruger, Author of Weaving the Word: The Metaphorics of Weaving and Female Textual Production and a contributing writer to Women Reading)

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