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Dreadful Sentiments

Tom Paulin, 3 April 1986

The Collected Letters of W.B. Yeats. Vol. I: 1865-1895 
edited by John Kelly and Eric Domville.
Oxford, 548 pp., £22.50, January 1986, 0 19 812679 4
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... Styles: The Tradition of an Idea’, the country’s most significant and influential critic, Seamus Deane, has criticised the way in which an acceptance of ‘the mystique of Irish-ness’ can involve readers in the ‘spiritual heroics’ of a Yeats or a Pearse. The result is a belief in ‘the incarnation of the nation in the individual’. ...

Green War

Patricia Craig, 19 February 1987

Poetry in the Wars 
by Edna Longley.
Bloodaxe, 264 pp., £12.95, November 1986, 0 906427 74 6
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We Irish: The Selected Essays of Denis Donoghue 
Harvester, 275 pp., £25, November 1986, 0 7108 1011 3Show More
The Battle of The Books 
by W.J. McCormack.
Lilliput, 94 pp., £3.95, October 1986, 0 946640 13 0
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The Twilight of Ascendancy 
by Mark Bence-Jones.
Constable, 327 pp., £14.95, January 1987, 0 09 465490 5
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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl 
edited by John Quinn.
Methuen, 144 pp., £8.95, November 1986, 0 413 14350 3
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... One of her objections to the ‘Field Day’ standpoint has already been mooted in the essay on Seamus Heaney’s North: she dislikes the practice of equating one set of circumstances with another, without sufficiently allowing for the differences between the two. Hence, she says, Heaney’s Iron Age Danish excavations yield up material so alien to ...

Misinformed about Paradise

Michael Wood, 5 September 1996

Reading in the Dark 
by Seamus Deane.
Cape, 233 pp., £13.99, September 1996, 0 224 04405 2
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... Its resemblance to The Turn of the Screw can scarcely be an accident, given the care and extent of Seamus Deane’s own reading, in the dark and elsewhere. But there is another way of looking at the resemblance. It is possible that Aunt Katie and the narrator within James’s story are both in touch with a world of legend, always present but taking on a ...

No Waverers Allowed

Clair Wills: Eamonn McCann, 23 May 2019

War and an Irish Town 
by Eamonn McCann.
Haymarket, 288 pp., £14.99, October 2018, 978 1 60846 567 5
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... of Northern Ireland since the late 1960s. In May 1974, in the New York Review of Books, the critic Seamus Deane lambasted Conor Cruise O’Brien, then minister for posts and telegraphs in the Irish Republic’s coalition government, for implying in a previous issue that ‘the Provisional IRA began the killing in the North.’ Not so. It was the Royal ...

We did and we didn’t

Seamus Perry: Are yez civilised?, 6 May 2021

On Seamus Heaney 
by R.F. Foster.
Princeton, 228 pp., £14.99, September 2020, 978 0 691 17437 2
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... When​ the posthumous Collected Poems of W.H. Auden appeared in 1976, Seamus Heaney wrote an appreciative review for the magazine Hibernia in which he tolda story about a Ballymena listener calling the BBC one morning in 1969, after the Northern Ireland news had given a lot of coverage to speeches by civil rights leaders the previous evening ...

A Bit Like Gulliver

Stephanie Burt: Seamus Heaney’s Seamus Heaney, 11 June 2009

Stepping Stones: Interviews with Seamus Heaney 
by Dennis O’Driscoll.
Faber, 524 pp., £22.50, November 2008, 978 0 571 24252 8
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The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney 
edited by Bernard O’Donoghue.
Cambridge, 239 pp., £45, December 2008, 978 0 521 54755 0
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... or correct, or displace – a future biography without taking years to concentrate on a memoir? Seamus Heaney and Dennis O’Driscoll have found a good way. Stepping Stones is not quite Heaney’s autobiography: it is, instead, a long collection of interviews, revised collaboratively, in which Heaney describes each phase of his life. Only a poet of ...

Life of Brian

Kevin Barry, 25 January 1990

No Laughing Matter: The Life and Times of Flann O’Brien 
by Anthony Cronin.
Grafton, 260 pp., £16.95, October 1989, 0 246 12836 4
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... mauled its vulgarity and provincialism in the formal modernity and impersonality of his work. Seamus Deane has described how an Irish literature of dissent registers alienation but is not a literature of alienation. In the formal habits of their narratives its authors conspire with and sustain the inertia they claim to despise. From this charge Brian ...

Perish the thought

John Redmond: Derek Mahon, 8 February 2001

Selected Poems 
by Derek Mahon.
Penguin, 213 pp., £9.99, November 2000, 0 14 118233 4
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... consciousness is flatly announced: ‘Even now there are places where a thought might grow.’ As Seamus Deane has pointed out, Mahon’s poems are neither conceptual nor sensual but equidistant from both. As in Redon’s paintings, the forms are like thoughts coming into being, as if prepared to luxuriate for ever in their own formation – ‘What ...

Overdoing the Synge-song

Terry Eagleton: Sebastian Barry, 22 September 2011

On Canaan’s Side 
by Sebastian Barry.
Faber, 256 pp., £16.99, August 2011, 978 0 571 22653 5
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... modern, urban Irish literati, as it is sometimes held against authors like Brian Friel and Seamus Deane. This is because in their case, but not in his, the backward glance to rural Ireland is associated with a currently unfashionable republicanism. On Canaan’s Side is a less impressive piece of fiction than A Long Long Way and The Secret ...

Literary Supplements

Karl Miller, 21 March 1991

by Denis Donoghue.
Cape, 193 pp., £12.99, March 1991, 0 224 03084 1
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Darkness Visible 
by William Styron.
Cape, 84 pp., £8.99, March 1991, 0 224 03045 0
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... His successor in the Chair of Modern English and American Literature at University College Dublin, Seamus Deane, has contributed to this work of revision, which is represented here as an un-Irish activity. Denis Donoghue’s refusal to assist the work adds a dislike of Marx to his dislike of Freud. ‘It is easy to denounce the Christian Brothers’ to ...

Let’s Do the Time Warp

Clair Wills: Modern Irish History, 3 July 2008

Luck and the Irish: A Brief History of Change c.1970-2000 
by R.F. Foster.
Penguin, 228 pp., £8.99, July 2008, 978 0 14 101765 5
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... This, it seems, is what Foster is getting at in his nicely imprecise subtitle: ‘c.1970-2000’. Seamus Deane tells a winning story of how, as a bookish child much given to reading the encyclopedia, he became fascinated with that place called Circa, where so many interesting things had happened, and over such a long period of time. In the curious ...

Playboys of the GPO

Colm Tóibín, 18 April 1996

Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation 
by Declan Kiberd.
Cape, 719 pp., £20, November 1995, 0 224 04197 5
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... of Joyce has become almost as intense in recent years as the battle for the GPO in Easter Week. Seamus Deane and Kiberd, both of whom have edited Penguin editions of Joyce’s fiction, have made efforts to dragoon him into the soldiers of destiny. In his essay on Joyce in The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, ...

The Road to Sligo

Tom Paulin, 17 May 1984

Poetry and Metamorphosis 
by Charles Tomlinson.
Cambridge, 97 pp., £9.95, March 1983, 0 521 24848 5
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by Charles Tomlinson.
Oxford, 120 pp., £7.95, October 1983, 0 19 211958 3
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Conversation with the Prince 
by Tadeusz Rozewicz, translated by Adam Czerniawski.
Anvil, 206 pp., £4.95, March 1982, 0 85646 079 6
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Passions and Impressions 
by Pablo Neruda, translated by Margaret Sayers Peden.
Farrar, Straus/Faber, 396 pp., £16.50, October 1983, 0 571 12054 7
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An Empty Room 
by Leopold Staff, translated by Adam Czerniawski.
Bloodaxe, 64 pp., £3.25, March 1983, 0 906427 52 5
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... to Unionism find themselves being given a radically different identity in translation. As Seamus Deane has pointed out (LRB, Vol. 5, No 7), the translator has been of extraordinary importance in Irish writing. There is a long tradition of translation from Irish Gaelic into Irish English, and the result is ‘a kind of interstitial literature ...

On (Not) Saying What You Mean

Colm Tóibín, 30 November 1995

... or Sir Thomas Wyatt. I studied English and History. In English we were told almost immediately by Seamus Deane that we must bring nothing of ourselves, of our personal experience to a poem when we read. A poem was a verbal structure, and our job was to define the nature of its structure. Thus a poem could be read in the same way by a student in Kenya, at ...


Colm Tóibín: The Great Irish Famine, 30 July 1998

... was too distant, and the world that grew out of it too interesting and close and dramatic. As Seamus Deane writes in Strange Country: Modernity and Nationhood in Irish Writing since 1790, the literature and the politics of the Irish Revival achieved ‘the remarkable feat of ignoring the Famine and rerouting the claim for cultural exceptionalism ...

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