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Seamus Heaney

An Introduction

Richard Rankin Russell

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The first detailed introduction to the entirety of Seamus Heaney’s work

This study will enable readers to gain clearer understanding of the life and major works of Seamus Heaney. It considers literary influences on Heaney, ranging from English poets such as Wordsworth, Hughes, and Auden to Irish poets such as Kavanagh and Yeats to world poets such as Virgil and Dante. It shows how Heaney was closely attuned to poetry's impact on daily life and current events even as he articulated a convincing apologia for poetry's own life and integrity. Discussing Heaney's deep immersion in Irish Catholicism, this book demonstrates how faith influenced his belief system, poetry and politics. Finally, it also considers how deeply Heaney's artistic endeavours were intertwined with politics in Northern Ireland, especially through his embrace of constitutional nationalism but rejection of physical force republicanism.

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1. Life and Contexts
2. Burrowing and Bogs: Early Poems, Death of a Naturalist, Door into the Dark, Wintering Out, North
3. Reading the Ground and the Sky: Field Work, Station Island, The Haw Lantern
4. Radiance: Seeing Things, The Spirit Level, Electric Light (1991-2001)
5. Return: District and Circle, Human Chain, and Late Uncollected Poetry (2006-2013)
6. Heaney’s Prose, Drama, and Translations
Works Cited.

About the Author

Richard Rankin Russell is Professor of English at Baylor University. He is the author of Seamus Heaney’s Regions (University of Notre Dame Press, 2014), Bernard MacLaverty: New Critical Readings (Bloomsbury Academic, 2014), Modernity, Community, and Place in Brian Friel’s Drama (Syracuse University Press, 2013), Peter Fallon: Poet, Publisher, Editor, and Translator (Irish Academic Press, 2013), Poetry and Peace: Michael Longley, Seamus Heaney, and Northern Ireland (University of Notre Dame Press, 2010) and Bernard MacLaverty (Bucknell University Press, 2009), as well as the editor of Martin McDonagh: A Casebook (Routedge, 2007).


This is an excellent overview of Seamus Heaney’s art, from first to last – biographically grounded, contextually alert, perceptive and discriminating in its close readings. Richard Rankin Russell is an eminently readable and reliable guide to the work of one of the truly outstanding poets and literary critics of our time.

- Neil Corcoran, University of Liverpool

Richard Rankin Russell brings an impressive combination of knowledge and skill to this steady, patient exploration of Seamus Heaney’s poems. Thoughtfully and sympathetically in keeping with Heaney’s own meditations on the art of poetry, his book is a valuable and comprehensive introduction to one of the most accomplished poetic careers of our time.

- Stephen Regan, Durham University

Those just embarking on a study of the poetry of Heaney could find no more capable or enthusiastic guide than Russell, who is an astute reader of individual poems, yet one who strikes a balance between close reading and tracing the sweep of Heaney’s poetry.

- ASHBY BLAND CROWDER, New Hibernia Review, Volume 20, Number 4

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