Seamus Heaney and the Adequacy of Poetry

ISBN : 9780198739197

John Dennison
272 ページ
154 x 222 mm

Seamus Heaney's prose poetics return repeatedly to the adequacy of poetry, its ameliorative, restorative response to the violence of public historical life. It is a curiously equivocal ideal, and as such most clearly demonstrates the intellectual origins, the humanist character, and the inherent strains of these poetics, the work of one of the world's leading poet-critics of the last thirty years. Seamus Heaney and the Adequacy of Poetry is the first study of the development of Heaney's thought and its central theme. Eschewing the tendency of Heaney critics to endorse or expand on the poet's poetics in largely adulatory terms, it draws on archival as well as print sources to trace the emerging dualistic shape, redemptive logic, and post-Christian nature of Heaney's thought, from his undergraduate formation to the expansive affirmations of his late cultural poetics. Through a meticulous and wholly new examination of Heaney's revisions to previously published prose, it reveals the logical strain of his conceptual constructions, so that it becomes acutely apparent just how appropriate that ambivalent ideal 'adequacy' is. This book takes seriously the post-Christian, frequently religious tenor of Heaney's language, explicating the character of his thought while exposing its limits: Heaney's belief in poetry's adequacy ultimately constitutes an Arnoldian substitute for-indeed, an 'afterimage' of-Christian belief. This is the deep significance of the idea of adequacy to Heaney's thought: it allows us to identify precisely the late humanist character and the limits of his troubled trust in poetry.


Introduction: The Idea of Adequacy
1. The Voices of My Education
2. Elements of Continuity
3. A Shift in Trust
4. Poetry is its Own Reality
5. To Construct Something upon which to Rejoice
6. The Humanist Wager
Epilogue: The Hint Half Guessed


John Dennison was born in Sydney in 1978. He studied English and Classics at Victoria University of Wellington, and English and Theology at the University of Otago, before completing a PhD in English Literature at the University of St Andrews. He lives in Wellington, New Zealand, where he is Associate Chaplain at the Anglican Chaplaincy, Victoria University. John Dennison is also the author of a collection of poems, Otherwise, published by Carcanet/Auckland University Press.