Thematic and stylistic characteristics of poets

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The field of postcolonial theory is of increasing primacy within critical theory and literary theory. Postcolonial surveies emphasise the re-emergence of cultural strengths and individualities, personal, racial, national and the similar. However, the term itself, and the being of a field of critical theory and surveies related to it, is still contested and debated. Situating a treatment or literary analysis within such a field could, hence, be inherently debatable, although this writer will try to warrant why Heaney can be viewed as a post-colonial poet by dint of his work, non merely the coincidence of his temporal and national arrangement.

This essay will try to discourse and analyze the thematic and stylistic features of Seamus Heaney ‘s work, concentrating on his North aggregation. The peculiar subjects and dimensions of these verse forms are important in relation to postcolonial theory because they so strongly related to facets of his cultural and racial individuality and heritage, every bit good as to his personal history and experience. Mention will be made within the essay to different critical positions upon his work, and to the underlying and associated political dimensions of the context within which the plants were produced.


Ashcroft et Al ( 1989: 2 ) province that the term post-colonial can be used “ to cover all the civilization affected by the imperial procedure from the minute of colonisation to the present twenty-four hours. ” It is a literature which emerges following the diminution of the Empire ( Cudden, 145 ) .

“ What each of these literatures have in common beyond their particular and typical regional features is that they emerged in their present signifier out of the experience of colonisation and asserted themselves by highlighting the tenseness with the imperial power, and by stressing their differences from the premises of the imperial Centre. ” ( Ashcroft et al, 2 ) .

Green and Lebihan ( 37 ) suggest that station colonial authorship may be engaged in rewriting a peculiar version of history, or in disputing a forceful platitude position of political relations. Loomba ( 103 ) nevertheless, suggests that the issue is complicated because the usage of the prefix ‘post ‘ leads to the deduction of a distinct epoch or subject which is associated with an wake, one that is “ temporal, as in coming after, an ideological, as in replacing. ” In the instance of Heaney, one could see his authorship as being a merchandise of colonial heritage, because his manner is so strongly related to traditional poetic signifiers, peculiarly lyric poesy, and because the grounds of that colonial heritage, in a post-colonial recoil, is all around him.

The ‘North ‘ aggregation was foremost published 1975, about a twelvemonth after the interruption down of the Sunningdale Agreement, which was followed by an IRA recoil? and a 15 twenty-four hours work stoppage by stalwart workers which ended up in the disbanding of the Faulkner-led authorities. The old ages 1974 and 1975 have been described as some of the worst minutes of the “ problems ” , and it is no surprise, hence, that Heaney ‘s work should mention non merely these happenings, but to his equivocal place in relation to them.

The subject of force is apparent in the North poems in a assortment of pretenses.

“ those hacked and glinting/in the crushed rock of thawed watercourses /were ocean-deafened voices

warning me, lifted again/in force and epiphany. ” ( from ‘North ‘ in North, 1975 )

The effects of force – decease, decay and associated conditions, are besides prevailing within these plants.

I can see her drowned

organic structure in the bog,

the burdening rock,

the drifting rods and boughs.

( from ‘Punishment ‘ in North, 1975 )

This cadaver is viewed by Heaney as a contemplation of the Catholic adult females who, during the problems in Northern Ireland, were publically punished ( tarred and chained to their houses ) for dating and tie ining with British soliders. Violence as a cultural representation, force as a subject, and the merchandises and representations of force, seem to rule many of Heaney ‘s plants ( Lunday, 111 ) . The land and the force associated with the people of the land seem to be inextricably linked. In footings of manner, this infusion shows while Heaney embraces simple, poetic beauty of linguistic communication, it is this really beauty which starkly contrasts with his topic. The manner in which Heany sets out to picture criminal conversation and the tribal effects of this shows a connexion to both present and past. Yet this is no romanticised yesteryear, no idealized heritage to bring forth a strong sense of patriotism.

“ I about love you / but would hold dramatis personae, I know, / the rocks of silence. I am the disingenuous Peeping Tom / your encephalon ‘s open and darkened combs… ” ( from ‘Punishment ‘ in North, 1975 )

Johnson ( 2005 ) suggests that this verse form serves to joint and show the calamity of a people in a topographic point, the Catholics of Northern Ireland. The responses of the talker to the criminal conversation are really much linked with the context, and with an consciousness that, within this context, no act that could be construed as impacting upon or linking with the political relations of the clip is without effects. Therefore, Heaney ‘s postcolonial nature is tracking his roots in Northern Irish rural life, which allow him to do usage of myth and certain alone facets of the Irish experience, whilst besides noticing on the modern-day context and the political struggle that forms the background to the publication of these plants. .

The subject of decease and organic structures relates to his heritage and history in existent ways. It could be argued that one of the cardinal motives in this aggregation is the bog, wild lands which carry the history of 1000000s of old ages. This scene allows for the geographic expedition of the yesteryear, and is how Heaney connects his political and ideological nowadays with his yesteryear. Thus it is of import linguistically and emblematically. .

The subjects of Heaney ‘s North aggregation of verse forms can be viewed in relation to his heritage as an Irishman, and as the boy of a agrarian household, and as person who has a strongly affectional connexion with the land of his birth ( Johnson, 2005 ) . These verse forms are specifically connected to the landscapes and the history of his life and heritage.

Spiritualty and faith is smaller, less obvious subject of these verse forms, and there are important connexions between the spiritual struggles with which he has been surrounded, and the linguistic communication of the verse forms, peculiarly in the pick to distinguish between the sacred and the layman. “ and found merely the secular/powers of the Atlantic thundering ” ( from ‘North ‘ in North, 1975 ) . Heaney besides associates faith with force ( see before subject ) “ in force and epiphany ” ( from ‘North ‘ in North, 1975 ) . This is unsurprising, given the issue of the ‘troubles ‘ and the context within which this authorship has emerged. However, this is non a comfy or easy asociation, for the reader in peculiar, because the connexion between the images of force used and what the author ( and reader ) must cognize and understand about Ireland ‘s history ( such as the civil war ) and its modern-day political stuggles, can possibly be said to attest within this authorship in Heaney ‘s hallmark lyrical yet sturdy manner. Historical force may be a mirror for current force, as in, for illustration “ The Tollund Man ” , where the adult male is non more than the obvious, a sacrifical offering to this predatory Earth female parent ( Johnson, 25 ) : “ She tighened her torc on him/And opened her fen ” . He is besides, as with ‘Punishment ‘ , a symbol of more recent victims of force, which surround him as constructs, and as images, possibly images excessively upseting for poetic look. While “ The stockinged corpses/laid out in the farmyards ” are a mention to Catholics murdered by Protestants during the civil war ( Johnson, 2005 ) , Heany used the “ Tollund Man ” as a symbol and representation of the history of these organic structures. He is all of those, from past to show, murdered for an political orientation, as are the other bog organic structures Heaney references, in a figure of his aggregations. Parker describes this mythologising of the present through the past as Heaney “ projecting about, like his fellow Northern Irish poets, in searh of appropriate schemes for turn toing the political crisis. ” ( 131 ) .

“ I foremost saw his distorted face

In a exposure,

A caput and shoulder

Out of the peat

Bruised like a forceps baby

But now he lies

Perfected in my memory. ” ( Heaney 1969 ‘The Graubelle Man ‘ ) .

Here, we see the stylistic nature of the work as beig paramount. The poet ‘s love of, or fear for, linguistic communication, is apparent here, as he pursues what Johnson ( 27 ) describes as ‘evocative similes ‘ , which serve a figure of intents. The past flawlessness alluded to here is affecting because of the imperfectnesss of the present, as if past force becomes less dismaying and more symbolic than present force. He is utilizing linguistic communication of the present to gaining control and depict something that is past and antediluvian, much as he does in his interlingual rendition of Beowulf ( McGuire, 80 ) . This really much makes Heaney ‘s work a merchandise of his physical heritage ( Parker, 19 ; Tuan 684 ) , and he connects his feelings, history and the history of the political relations and wars of yesteryear and nowadays with the land upon which they have taken topographic point ( Evans, 54 ; Mitchell and Ryan, 8 ) .


The plants of Seamus Heaney can be strongly argued to be post-colonial, because they are a clear merchandise of a heritage which is deeply marked and shaped by imperialism and colonialism. The history of his state, and of his work, is to be found within the land, and within the words that he uses to arouse both. The stylistic characteristics of Heaney ‘s verse forms, particularly the North aggregation, adhere to conventions of lyric poetrym and is ‘amenable to traditional outlooks about poetic signifier and launguage ( Johnson 28 ) . It is non surprising that thematically, and emblematically, force, requital, and religionism, all find their manner into these plants.

However, this writer would besides reason that these subjects may be every bit much a merchandise of the reader ‘s reading, based on a cognition of the poet and his context and history, and this raises the inquiry of whether the work of a poet can of all time be divorced from what the reader knows about how and where the poesy is produced. The power of Heaney ‘s words lie in his accomplishment ful use of linguistic communication that adheres to familiar poetic signifiers but addresses powerful images and emblems. Overall, these plants mimic the inquiries and constructs raised by the Irish ‘troubles ‘ and demo such issues played out linguistically, stylistically, and symbolically through petry that is at one time blunt and soft, sturdy and moderate.