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    SESSION 2008 2009




    Mondays 13.00 15.00 in seminar room, Humanity Manse (HMG1)

    Thursdays 13.00 15.00 in seminar room, Humanity Manse (HMG1)

    Course Convener

    Prof Patrick Crotty

     HMF5 Humanity Manse; telephone 272196; email

    Office hours: Tuesday 14.00 16.00


    Dr Shane Alcobia-Murphy

    Room F13 Old Brewery; telephone 272630; email

    This course guide must be read in conjunction with the following booklets

    which are available from the School office:

    Guide to Written Work

    Guide to Honours and Level 3 English

    Guidance on Avoiding Plagiarism

    NOTE School/university regulations relating to this course are set out in full in the Guide to Honours, which is available from the School

    office and on the School web site

     You must familiarise yourself with this important information at

    the earliest opportunity


Markings: The Poetry of Seamus Heaney: The Course

    Seamus Heaney has written some of the most popularly accessible as well as some of the most intellectually challenging poetry in English in the last half century. His early poems recreate aspects of his childhood in rural Northern Ireland in vividly sensuous language. The denser, more poignant and self-conscious lyrics of Wintering Out (1972) and North (1975) brood on the cultural

    and historical implications of words, exploring their use and history in the context of the unfolding Northern Irish „troubles‟. Later volumes are notably various in

    style and attitude and are characterised by a suspicion as well as a celebration of the rhetorical resourcefulness that marks Heaney off from his British and Irish contemporaries. The stately elegising of Field Work (1979), the self-lacerating

    confessionalism of Station Island (1984), the cerebral parable spinning of The

    Haw Lantern (1987), the visionary meditations of Seeing Things (1991) a book

    as airy as Heaney‟s debut volume was earthy – and the formal plenitude and

    moral rigour of The Spirit Level (1996) exemplify a self-renewing energy that has evoked comparisons with W. B. Yeats. The course traces the relationship between the apparently “reader friendly” poems of Death of a Naturalist (1966)

    and the more rebarbative and demanding writings of the later collections. Heaney‟s work is placed in its historical context in relation both to the politics of

    Northern Ireland and the crisis of representation in late twentieth-century poetics.

The aims of the course are:

    ; To provide knowledge of the formal range of Seamus Heaney‟s verse from

    1966 to the present

    ; To explore the continuities and discontinuities of theme and approach in

    Heaney‟s poetry from Death of a Naturalist to The Spirit Level

    ; To consider the set texts in their political and aesthetic contexts ; To facilitate a theoretical appreciation of some of the problems of

    representation in contemporary poetry

Learning Outcomes:

    The table that follows summarises the knowledge and skills you should have acquired by the end of the course.


A: Knowledge and Understanding of:- C: Practical Skills the abilities to:-

    ; the poetic development of Seamus ; think and speak cogently about Seamus

    Heaney Heaney‟s poetry and its relationship to

    modernity/post-modernity ; the critical debate about poetic mimesis

    ; discuss the critical and formal contexts ; the cultural, political and aesthetic

    within which Heaney‟s work may be placed contexts for poetic production in

    contemporary Ireland and Britain ; write critically about poetry that engages

     formally and thematically with contemporary

    debates about representation, meaning and

    cultural identity

B: Intellectual Skills the abilities to:- D: Transferable Skills the abilities to:-

    ; read and appreciate a representative ; discuss complex issues with clarity and

    selection of Seamus Heaney‟s verse and cogency, both orally and in writing

    understand its literary and cultural ; write clearly, succinctly, grammatically and

    contexts and significance idiomatically

    ; comprehend the formal, stylistic and ; organise study time effectively

    critical issues relating to poetic

    composition and reception

    ; understand the linguistic and political

    pressures informing literary production in



The teaching in this course will take the form of seminars. Seminars will involve

    whole class and group discussion and you should come along ready to participate.

    Week 1: Monday 10 November: Introduction: An overview of Heaney‟s career in its Northern Irish, Irish, British and American contexts.

Week 1: Thursday 13 November: Birth of a Naturalist?: The early poetry:

    Poems for discussion will include „Digging‟, „Personal Helicon‟, „The Diviner‟, „Blackberry-Picking‟, „Churning Day‟ and „Death of a Naturalist‟.

    Week 2: Monday 17 November: Digging Deeper: Poems for discussion will include „Antaeus‟, „The Forge‟, „Relic of Memory‟, „Bogland‟, „Requiem for the

    Croppies‟, „Bog Oak‟, „Toome‟ and „A New Song‟. This session will chart the expanding resonances of the artesian metaphor in Heaney‟s early work.

Week 2: Thursday 20 November: The Bog Strikes Back: Three poems -

     ‟Broagh‟, „The Other Side‟ and „The Tollund Man‟ will be be at the centre of this seminar‟s discussion of Heaney‟s artistic response to communal division and political violence of Northern Ireland in the early 1970s.


Week 3: Monday 24 November: North: „Hercules and Antaeus‟ and „Funeral

    Rites‟ will be closely examined in the course of this class‟s discussion, but you

    should have read all the poems from p.96 to p.130 by way of preparation.

Week 3: Thursday 27 November: The dead as relics of memory: This

    seminar will contrast the mythopoeic approach to victims in North with the more

    historicised and particularised treatment of Field Work. It will also consider the

    elegiac strand in Heaney‟s subsequent development. Poems for discussion will

    include „The Strand at Lough Beg‟, „Casualty‟, „A Postcard from North Antrim‟

    (see Appendix) and „Clearances‟.

Week 4: Monday 1 December: Heaney Astray: This session will examine the

    role of the Sweeney figure in Heaney‟s work from „The Strand at Lough Beg‟

    through Sweeney Astray, „King of the Ditchbacks‟ and „Station Island I‟ to Sweeney Redivivus in the light of the career‟s characteristic dialectic between

    attachment and detachment.

Week 4: Thursday 4 December: Objects as relics of memory: This class will

    trace the concern with the recuperative powers of poetic language which informs Heaney‟s work at all stages of his career, and will examine some of the later poems that return to the childhood settings of his earliest canonical work. Poems

    for discussion will include „The Harvest Bow‟, „Sandstone Keepsake‟, „from Shelf

    Life‟, „Hailstones‟, „The Spoonbait‟, „Markings‟, „Seeing Things‟, „The Pitchfork‟,

    „The Settle Bed‟, „Wheels within Wheels‟ and „A Sofa in the Forties‟.

Week 5: Monday 8 December: Frontiers of Writing: This seminar will examine

    the way Heaney‟s poetry can be read as both anticipating and answering criticism of its aesthetic procedures. The parable poems of The Haw Lantern will

    be considered in relation to the poet‟s systematic widening of the horizons of his work and also as a partly self-critical response to the earlier poetry‟s indulgence

    of the „mimetic fallacy‟.

Week 5: Thursday 11 December: Falling Ground: This concluding session will

    consider the „Squarings‟ sequence in terms of the airiness and awareness of

    transience which counter the earthiness and solidity with which Heaney‟s poetry

    is conventionally associated.

Week 6: Monday 15 December: No meeting.

    Week 6: Thursday 18 December: Essay to be submitted to the School office by 13.00. .


Set Texts

    Seamus Heaney, Opened Ground: Poems 1966-1996

Secondary Reading

    Allen, Michael, Seamus Heaney (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1997) Casebook Series

    Andrews, Elmer, All the Realms of Whisper: the Poetry of Seamus Heaney (Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1988)

     nd edition, Corcoran, Neil, The Poetry of Seamus Heaney: A Critical Study (2

    London: Faber, 1998)

    Murphy, Andrew, Seamus Heaney (Writers & Their Work) (Tavistock: Northcote House, 1996)

O‟Donoghue, Bernard, Seamus Heaney and the Language of Poetry (New York:

    Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1994)

Parker, Michael, Seamus Heaney: the Making of the Poet (Dublin: Gill and

    Macmillan, 1993)

    Vendler, Helen, Seamus Heaney (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1998)

Background reading

    Deane, Seamus, A Short History of Irish Literature (Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame Press, 1994)

    Deane, Seamus, Celtic Revivals: Essays in Modern Irish Literature, 1880-1980 (London: Faber, 1985)

    Kelleher, Margaret and O‟Leary Philip, eds., The Cambridge History of Irish Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 2 vols.

    Schirmer, Gregory A, Out of What Began: A History of Irish Poetry in English (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1998)

    Vance, Norman, Irish Literature: A Social History (Oxford: Blackwell, 1990)



There are two elements in the assessment of this course: an essay (80%) and

    seminar performance mark (the SAM): (20%)

Basis of Assessment

    A: Knowledge and Understanding C: Practical Skills

; Formative assessment of knowledge and ; Written work will be assessed for clear and effective

    understanding will occur through the tutor‟s expression and cogency of argument. Normally it monitoring of seminar discussions and through will be word-processed; neatness of presentation

    written comments on the essay will be taken into account

    ; Final assessment will occur through the essay ; Oral work will be assessed for effectiveness of and through assessment of students‟ participation in group discussion, articulation of participation in seminar discussions literary issues, relevance of argument and cogency

     of expression

    B: Intellectual Skills D: Transferable Skills

    ; Intellectual skills will be formally assessed ; Transferable skills will be assessed for evidence of through the essay and seminar participation. ability to think, write, and speak grammatically, These will be assessed for appropriate idiomatically and cogently

    coherence of analytical argument, cogency of ; Punctuality in meeting deadlines will also constitute expression, substantive knowledge, relevant a criterion of assessment

    use of evidence, skill in analysing the set literary

    texts, comprehension of appropriate critical

    approaches to Scott‟s fiction, and sensitivity to

    the relationships between creative writing and

    national cultural identity

    Seminar Assessment Mark (SAM) is based on the following criteria:

Regularity of Attendance

    Course Regulations state that attendance at each meeting of every course is compulsory. Students may miss no more than one class if they are to be awarded a first-class SAM; miss two classes and the maximum SAM will be 17, miss three classes and the maximum SAM will be 14; miss four classes and the maximum SAM will be 11; miss five classes and the maximum TAM will be 9; miss more than five classes and this will mean that the class certificate will be refused. In each of these cases allowance will be made for absence covered by a doctor‟s medical certificate. Students who are persistently late for the class may, after warning, be considered as though they were absent.


Frequency of participation:

    It is expected that all students will participate voluntarily in open forum and in group work as appropriate. Participation includes asking questions of the course leader or of other students, exploring or contesting views expressed by others, summarising discussion, etc., etc. To obtain a first-class assessment for frequency of participation, regular participation in each class is required; to obtain a 2i grade, regular participation in a majority of classes attended will be expected; those who contribute to discussion only occasionally will be awarded a 2ii grade, rd-class grade. while persistent silence will merit a 3

Quality of participation:

    The quality of participation will be measured by the nature of the arguments or perceptions or evidence offered to the seminar; relevant knowledge; evidence of the care with which the text or film has been read, or data interpreted; evidence of having prepared the assignments; willingness to initiate discussion; intellectual interaction with other members of the seminar.

Criteria for Essay Assessment

    Good essays will be identified by the quality of argument, use of evidence, relevance to topic and quality of expression. Inaccuracies in punctuation, spelling, grammar, idiom, referencing and bibliography, and sloppiness in presentation (numerous insertions, deletions, coffee stains, etc.) will be penalised by the deduction of up to 4 marks. Students should refer to The Good Writing Guide for further advice.

    Students who are referred by the tutor to the Academic Writing Support programme are strongly advised to make use of this service so as to improve their essay writing skills.

Essay Topics

Write on one of the following topics. Your essay should be between 2500 and

    3000 words long, including quotations and footnotes; students should note that they will be penalised for work which is either too long or too short. Your essay

    must be submitted to the School Office by 11am on Thursday 1 November.

1. Compare and contrast the poetry of any one of Heaney‟s first four individual

    collections with that of one of his volumes from 1979 onwards. You may limit your answer to the selection from the chosen volumes included in Opened



2. Discuss the treatment of poetry and/or writing as a theme in Heaney‟s work.

    3. Write an essay on the connection between language and history in a range of poems by Seamus Heaney.

    4. Discuss the relationship between consistency and variety in Heaney‟s poetic output. Your answer should make reference to the full temporal scope of the career as represented in Opened Ground.

    5. Discuss Seamus Heaney‟s poetry in terms of its attempts to render sensation in language. Your answer should make reference to the full temporal scope of the career as represented in Opened Ground.

    6. Discuss Heaney‟s use/treatment in his poetry of any ONE of the following:

    (a) mythology

    (b) the English poetic tradition

    (c) the Gaelic literary tradition

    (d) death

Submission arrangements for essays:

    There will normally be no meetings of the course in week 6. Instead, this week will be devoted to essay writing. Essays must be submitted to the School Office by the class hour on the day of the last scheduled meeting of the course (Thursday of week 6), but students may opt to write an essay under examination conditions in the two-hour class period on that Thursday instead. You must

    notify the tutor in advance if you wish to use this opportunity.

Late submission

    Three marks will be deducted for late submission (up to a week late) without supportive medical evidence.. Essays submitted after this date will receive a NIL mark.

    Extensions can be granted by tutors for up to one week on medical grounds or other good reasons. Further extensions beyond one week can be granted only by the Undergraduate Programme Co-ordinator.

    For further information refer to the late submission guidelines contained within the Guide to Honours and Level 3 English Studies section on Written Work and




    A Postcard from North Antrim


     A lone figure is waving

     From the thin line of a bridge

     Of ropes and slats, slung

     Dangerously out between

     The cliff-top and the pillar rock.

     A nineteenth century wind.

     Dulse-pickers. Sea campions.

     A postcard for you, Sean,

     And that’s you, swinging alone,

     Antic, half-afraid,

     In your gallowglass’s beard

     And swallow-tail of serge:

     The Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge

     Ghost-written on sepia.

     Or should it be your houseboat

     Ethnically furnished,

     Redolent of grass?

     Should we discover you

     Beside those warm-planked, democratic wharves

     Among the twilights and guitars

     Of Sausalito?

     Drop-out on a come-back,

     Prince of no-man’s land

     With your head in clouds or sand,

     You were the clown

     Social worker of the town

     Until your candid forehead stopped

     A pointblank teatime bullet.

     Get up from your blood on the floor.

     Here’s another boat

     In grass by the lough shore,

     Turf smoke, a wired hen-run

     Your local, hoped for, unfound commune.

     Now recite me William Bloat,


     Sing of the Calabar

     Or of Henry Joy McCracken

     Who kissed his Mary Ann

     On the gallows at Cornmarket.

     Or Ballycastle Fair.

     ‘Give us the raw bar!’

     ‘Sing it by brute force

     If you forget the air.’

     Yet something in your voice

     Stayed nearly shut.

     Your voice was a harassed pulpit

     Leading the melody

     It kept at bay,

     It was independent, rattling, non-transcendent

     Ulster old decency

     And Old Bushmills,

     Soda farls, strong tea,

     New rope, rock salt, kale plants,

     Potato-bread and Woodbine.

     Wind through the concrete vents

     Of a border check-point.

     Cold zinc nailed for a peace line.

     Fifteen years ago, come this October,

     Crowded on your floor,

     I got my arm round Marie’s shoulder

     For the first time.

     ‘Oh, Sir Jasper, do not touch me!’

     You roared across at me,

     Chorus-leading, splashing out the wine.


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