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Title: Versus : Seamus Heaney and the poetics of form
Author: Hall, Jason David.
Awarding Body: Birkbeck (University of London)
Current Institution: Birkbeck (University of London)
Date of Award: 2003
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Seamus Heaney's poetry is characterized by a friction between the poet's ideas and his formal medium. Few studies, however, have interrogated the extent to which much of the meaning of Heaney's poetry resides in the negotiation between form and content. This thesis examines Heaney's preoccupation with traditional metre and verse form, hoping to demonstrate the necessity of formal analysis as a way of accessing meaning in Heaney's poetry. 2 One function of my thesis is to discover what can be gained from an explication of the formal features of Heaney's poetry. However, I have not adopted a rigidly formalist approach. My reading of the form of Heaney's verse recognizes that a poem has its genesis in an historical moment, that it may 'mean' differently at different times and that locating meaning requires an examination of verse form and its function in the process of ideological signification. With these aims in mind, I endeavour to explicate the formal mechanisms that themselves generate meaning while devoting attention to the exchange between the aesthetic object and its ideological bearings. As a result of this dual obligation, I pay particular attention to the interplay between convergent discourses. Poetry in traditional forms adheres to certain codes, and these codes are at once formal--quantifiable, mechanical, technical, mathematical, universally applicable and available-while at the same time they are ideological-historical, confrontational, (un)avoidable, deconstructible, sometimes objectionable. Much of the meaning of Heaney's poetry resides at the intersection of these codes. The text of the thesis comprises five chapters. Chapter 1 is devoted to an examination of the poetry Heaney composed as a student at Queen's University; chapter 2 examines Heaney's involvement with the Belfast Group; chapter 3 explores Heaney's experimentation with unconventional verse forms; chapter 4 offers an analysis of Heaney's management of a particular fixed form, the sonnet. The thesis concludes with a postscript that looks at negative assessments of Heaney's formalism and ponders the role of traditional verse forms in a postmodernist poetics.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available