Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Semester of Degree Completion


Thesis Director

Don Dolton


Heaney's poetry has grown and changed since the publication of his first collection of poetry, Death of a Naturalist. This paper is an attempt to present the development of Heaney's exploratory poetic which was created through his use of language and image, allowing him metaphorical vehicles for the examination of oppositions.

Heaney began his poetic exploration, or "dig," with the collections Death of a Naturalist and Door Into the Dark. The poetry presents nature images which represent Heaney's search into the unknown, the dark places. These images symbolize a searching for the imagination and for the purpose of art and beauty.

In Wintering Out Heaney continues his search into the sounds and meanings of words. North is a similar exploration with the emphasis on cultural images.

In both North and Field Work, Heaney is working within an established poetic which ritualizes the writing activity in such a way as to culminate in a renewing of cultural views. The views are connected to the traditional Irish culture, naming it lifeless.

Also included in the exploration of Heaney is an examination of his biographical background and as well as a brief reminder of the political realities of Ireland. By the time Field Work is written, Heaney is able to express his politcal views directly. However, He never displays a poetic of gruesome violence and detail when working with the Irish troubles. Instead, he is able to integrate the political tensions into the language and image environments he has already established, allowing a more universal, more human approach to a specific political situation.

The resolution to the many oppositions raised by Heaney is a creation or recreation of views, or what Heaney calls "mind geographies," which suggest the support of that which is life-giving and life-supporting over that which is life-denying.

Most of the paper is dedicated to the analysis of Heaney's poetry, although much information has been included which was derived from book reviews, articles, essays written by Heaney, and interviews with the poet.