Seamus Heaney and the Classics (OUP 2019)

seamus heaney and the classics

Seamus Heaney, the great Irish poet, made a significant contribution to classical reception in modern poetry; though occasional essays have appeared in the past, this volume is the first to be wholly dedicated to this perspective on his work. Comprising literary criticism by scholars of both classical reception and contemporary literature in English, it includes contributions from critics who are also poets, as well as from theatre practitioners on their interpretations and productions of Heaney's versions of Greek drama; well-known names are joined by early-career contributors, and friends and collaborators of Heaney sit alongside those who admired him from afar.

The papers focus on two main areas: Heaney's fascination with Greek drama and myth - shown primarily in his two Sophoclean versions, but also in his engagement in other poems with Hesiod, with Aeschylus' Agamemnon, and with myths such as that of Antaeus - and his interest in Latin poetry, primarily that of Virgil but also that of Horace; a version of an Horatian ode was famously the vehicle for Heaney's comment on the events of 11 September 2001 in 'Anything Can Happen' (District and Circle, 2006). Although a number of the contributions cover similar material, they do so from distinctively different angles: for example, Heaney's interest in Virgil is linked with the traditions of Irish poetry, his capacity as a translator, and his annotations in his own text of a standard translation, as well as being investigated in its long development over his poetic career, while his Greek dramas are considered as verbal poetry, as comments on Irish politics, and as stage-plays with concomitant issues of production and interpretation. Heaney's posthumous translation of Virgil's Aeneid VI (2016) comes in for considerable attention, and this will be the first volume to study this major work from several angles.

 

Edited by Stephen Harrison, Fiona Macintosh and Helen Eastman

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