Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences

Circling and Return with speaker Professor Michael Parker, University of Central Lancashire

This event has now finished. Please see our events website for details of upcoming events at Brookes.

Who this event is for

  • Everyone


Chakrabarti (208), John Henry Brookes Building, Headington Campus, Gipsy Lane site


Circling and Return: Public and Private Imperatives in Seamus Heaney&aphos;s Late Poetry

In the course of a telling interview with Henri Cole in The Paris Review, prior to the award of the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1995, Seamus Heaney maintained that he was not &aphos;a political poet with political themes and a specifically political understanding of the world&aphos;. Later in the same piece, however, he acknowledges that occasions arise when not to respond to political events would be &aphos;stupid or insensitive&aphos;.

This paper will examine the extent to which his increasing international profile from the late-1990s affected Heaney&aphos;s writing, and the political and ethical concerns it so often addressed. Given the growing importance of translation in his latter years, it will begin by focusing on The Burial at Thebes (2004) - his translation of Sophocles&aphos; play Antigone - and the ground it shares with a selection of poems from District and Circle (2006). &aphos;Anything can Happen&aphos;, &aphos;Anahorish 1944&aphos;, and &aphos;Out of Shot&aphos; provide an interesting variety of responses to 9/11 and its bloody aftermath, encouraging readers to join him in ranging across places and times in search of connections and differences.

As during the period from 1969-1994 when the Troubles were at their height, Heaney in his late poetry maintains his practice of intermingling the public and private in his collections and individual lyrics, such as &aphos;The Nod&aphos; (District and Circle). With their alternative narratives - their revisitings and revaluations of phases, people and places linked to childhood, family and parish, their evocative portrayals of nature and landscapes - the more autobiographical poems are not intended to operate as a simple counter-balance to the darker matter he confronts elsewhere. Frequently, these mature lyrics reflect on the passage of time, and his own changing perspectives, dwelling on the work and lives of friends and fellow-artists, and what they achieved. To illustrate these strains in his work, the speaker and attendees will together consider &aphos;Out of This World&aphos; Part One and &aphos;The Blackbird of Glanmore&aphos; (District and Circle), and &aphos;The Door was Open&aphos; and &aphos;A Kite for Aibhin&aphos; (from Human Chain.