Gendering the Irish Land: Seamus Heaney's

Gendering the Irish Land: Seamus Heaney's "Act of Union"(1975) (1).

By revista de la Asociacion Espanola de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos Atlantis

  • Release Date: 2001-06-01
  • Genre: Language Arts & Disciplines
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Gendering the Irish Land: Seamus Heaney's "Act of Union"(1975) (1). revista de la Asociacion Espanola de Estudios Anglo-Norteamericanos Atlantis ebook - epub

Two main features characterise the eighteenth-century aisling tradition of Irish national(ist) poetry: the personification of "Ire-Land" as a defenceless woman and the image of England as her rapist. This article shows how the 1995 Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney still made use of this old literary tradition for the composition of several of the poems he included in such a (relatively) recent collection as North (1975). In order to back up this claim, an in-depth analysis of Heaney's "Act of Union" is carried out, although other poems from North, which may also be said to show some aisling influence, are studied as well. This article argues that the influence of this poetic tradition on Heaney's elaboration of North is necessarily linked to a type of imagery that has long portrayed Irish women as bodiless and passive entities who represent the nationalist myth of the Irish Motherland. This paper also shows that ever since the 1980s many contemporary Irish (women) poets have set about undermining this aisling tradition, so as to deconstruct ideal(ised) representations of Irish women in poetry and endow them with a real, bodily existence. The conclusion advocates a critical analysis of (Irish) mythology, which should serve two purposes. Firstly, it should allow us to understand the cultural, historical, and/or political origins of most (Irish) myths, including of course that of the Motherland. Secondly, this understanding should also make us aware of the need to view Irish women not as abstract, symbolic, and ahistorical entities, but as flesh-and-blood human beings, whose real interests and experiences have long been mythically denied for cultural, historical, and/or political reasons. **********

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