Evolution of Seamus Heaney's Eco-Elegies

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review

Abstract

Seamus Heaney's poetry persistently struggles with the elegiac genre. Suspicious of the singular elegaic voice, his poetry invites voices to participate in the elegiac conversation. Through this opening to other voices, Heaney tentatively moves to transcend the elegiac as we have usually understood it, which is particularly important in the context of ecological writing. Timothy Morton observes that elegies have moved from the work of mourning to the work of pure suffering (254). Elegies are no longer elegies for the past (the dead), but elegies for the future (the dying). Morton reveals this embarassing paradox through which ecological writing kills nature for a second time, before nature's death has fully 'happened' even for the first time (255). Morton believes that ecological writing must transcend the elegiac mode, and this is exactly what Heaney's ecological poems do: they emphasise the reality of human and nonhuman interdependence, challenging the usual, comfortable ways in which humans are the center while nature falls into the background. This paper demonstrates in detail how Heaney's later elegiac poetry empowers the nonhuman dead by amplifying their voices, inserting a third voice, and weakening the elegaic (often male) speaker.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

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