Date of Award

Summer 1992

Document Type

Dissertation - Restricted

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Boly, John

Second Advisor

Gillespie, Michael


Seamus Heaney's poetry contains various discourses: those informed by religious and social customs and rituals; those generated from other literary genres; those saturated with ideologies from philosophies; and those issuing from etymologies indigenous to the historical languages spoken in Northern Ireland. By applying Mikhail Bakhtin's theory of dialogism to Seamus Heaney's poetry, it is possible to see not only that these discourses are multiple and varied, but that they disclose the productive values and assumptions of recognizable groups. No single group, however, is privileged over another. Although the dialogical utterances in Heaney's poetry resonate with cultural and historical concerns familiar to the speaker, and although these utterances may be orchestrated by him, they are never monologic. Major Heaney critics tend to evaluate and interpret his poetry using informative New Critical and historical approaches, but as far as I know there are no poststructuralist volumes on his work. Dillon Johnston, for example, connects well-known successors to Yeats (Austin Clarke, Patrick Kavanagh, Denis Devlin and Louis MacNeice) to contemporary poets and, in his discussion, pairs Heaney with Kavanagh. His pairing casts historical light on Heaney's work and demonstrates both his connection to, and his reaction against, the Irish literary tradition; Robert F. Garratt, in Modern Irish Poetry, situates the modern Irish poets within a framework bordered at one end by a sense of continuity felt by contemporary writers concerning writers who preceded them, and at the other by modern writers' "non romantic aesthetic" (3); Blake Morrison, on the other hand, addresses Heaney's "mediation between speech and silence" (17) in his early poetry, but lapses into biographical sources as illuminators to advance textual interpretation; Neil Corcoran's fine study, Seamus Heaney; owes much of its explication of Heaney's poems to biographical and historical sources and their effect on, or incorporation into, his verse...



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