Myths of place : the importance of landscape in the poetries of W.H. Auden and Seamus Heaney
Numerous studies of landscape in the works of Wordsworth and his predecessors exist; very few books, however, are concerned with its significance in modern and contemporary poetry. Works on Auden and Heaney make reference to local elements, but do not consider the overall and continuous importance of landscape in their writings. It is hoped that this study goes some way towards remedying these deficiencies. The philosophical and imaginative cohesiveness of successive poems relating to single specific landscapes in the works of Auden and Heaney suggests the term 'myths of place'. In according landscape a central role in the major dialectics of their poetries, Auden and Heaney make the most valuable contributions to the local mode since Wordsworth's advances beyond the picturesque. Important parallels exist in the developments of their myths of place. Each produces localized poems embodying radical ideologies and complements such work by mythologising landscape into a sanctuary for ideal values. Landscape constitutes a structural principle adequate to the sustained expression of the dominant psychological and ethical intuitions of their writings. Ultimately, Auden and Heaney neutralize their myths of place by deconstructing the significances that have accrued to their landscapes. Chapters One and Two consider Auden's varied treatments of the limestone moorland he knew in childhood; Chapters Three and Four investigate his figurative adaptations of landscape. Heaney's early utilisations of landscape and their culmination in his myth of the bogland form the subjects of Chapters Five and Six; Chapter Seven examines his idyllic localizations, while his imaginatively liberating re-evaluations of his native region are described in Chapter Eight. The study concludes with an assessment of the implications for present-day poetry of Auden's and Heaney's achievements in the use of landscape. Text-centred methods are used throughout, supplemented with geographical and biographical information where this is directly relevant.