1st Edition

Seamus Heaney’s Mythmaking

Edited By Ian Hickey, Ellen Howley Copyright 2023

    Seamus Heaney’s Mythmaking examines Seamus Heaney’s poetic engagement with myth from his earliest work to the posthumous publication of Aeneid Book VI. The essays explore the ways in which Heaney creates his own mythic outlook through multiple mythic lenses. They reveal how Heaney adopts a demiurgic role throughout his career, creating a poetic universe that draws on diverse mythic cycles from Greco-Roman to Irish and Norse to Native American. In doing so, this collection is in dialogue with recent work on Heaney’s engagement with myth. However, it is unique in its wide-ranging perspective, extending beyond Ancient and Classical influences.

    In its focus on Heaney’s personal metamorphosis of several mythic cycles, this collection reveals more fully the poet’s unique approach to mythmaking, from his engagement with the act of translation to transnational influences on his work and from his poetic transformations to the poetry’s boundary-crossing transitions. Combining the work of established Heaney scholars with the perspectives of early-career researchers, this collection contains a wealth of original scholarship that reveals Heaney’s expansive mythic mind. Mythmaking, an act for which Heaney has faced severe criticism, is reconsidered by all contributors, prompting multifaceted and nuanced readings of the poet’s work.

    Introduction: Seamus Heaney’s Mythmaking

    Ian Hickey & Ellen Howley


    1. ‘Words that the rest of us can understand’: Heaney and the Eclogue
    2. Meg Tyler

    3. "The Age of Ghosts" and "The Age of Births": Seamus Heaney’s "Route 110" and Tesserae
    4. Eugene O’Brien 

    5. Seamus Heaney’s Shield of Perseus
    6. Brendan Corcoran


    7. Seamus Heaney and the Making of Sweeney Astray
    8. Stephen Regan

    9. ‘Greek Gifts’: Seamus Heaney’s The Cure at Troy, Its Political Contexts and Ethical Imperatives
    10. Michael Parker

    11. ‘Always new to me, always familiar’: mythical re-significations in Heaney’s diction and poetic depictions in Italian
    12. Debora Biancheri


    13. ‘Mythologized, Demythologized’: Heaney, Lowell and Becoming-Trickster in Field Work
    14. Michael Hinds

    15. Seamus Heaney: The Burdens and Benefits of Gift - Giving
    16. Henry Hart

    17. Mythic Water in Seamus Heaney’s Poetry
    18. Ellen Howley



    19. Dante, Heaney and the Hauntological
    20. Ian Hickey

    21. Crossing the Threshold to the Underworld in Heaney’s Late Poetry
    22. Joanne Piavanini 

    23. Self-Elegy from Afar: Emptiness and Anabasis in Seamus Heaney’s Late Work

    Magdalena Kay


    Ian Hickey is a lecturer in the Department of English Language and Literature, Mary Immaculate College. He also works in the Irish Institute for Catholic Studies in Mary Immaculate College. His first monograph Haunted Heaney: Spectres and the Poetry was published by Routledge in 2021 and was joint winner of the British Association for Contemporary Literary Studies Monograph Prize. He has published numerous journal articles on the poetry of Seamus Heaney, Brendan Behan and twenty-first-century Irish writing, as well as on Benjamin Zephaniah in Spoken Word in the UK. He is currently writing his second monograph entitled Fragmentation: Twenty-First Century Irish Poetry and Fiction.

    Ellen Howley is Assistant Professor at the School of English, Dublin City University. She has published work in the Journal of Commonwealth Literature, Comparative Literature and Irish Studies Review on Seamus Heaney, Derek Walcott, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and M. NourbeSe Philip, among others. She co-wrote, with Eugene McNulty, a chapter on Ireland for Europe in British Literature and Culture, edited by Petra Rau and Will Rossiter (Cambridge University Press). She is currently working on a monograph that examines how contemporary Irish and Caribbean poets write about the sea.