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Chapter 24 - The Feminine

from VI - Critical Contexts

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 March 2021

Geraldine Higgins
Affiliation:
Emory University, Atlanta
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Summary

This chapter explores the influence of the women’s liberation movement on Heaney’s poetry, criticism and critical reception by examining the changing status of ‘the feminine’ in his poetics. Heaney’s early criticism subscribed to a Gravesian dichotomy between masculine mastery and feminine receptivity, which he later tones down in light of feminist critique. The controversy over Heaney’s figuration of colonialism as rape in North (1975), and the ensuing debate over the aisling genre, present mixed attitudes both towards patriarchal ideology and towards diverging emphases in contemporary feminism. Heaney proved adept at becoming canonical at a time when the patriarchal biases of literary canon-formation were critiqued by feminists, most notably during the critical furore over the marginalization of women from the 1991 Field Day Anthology. ‘Station Island’ (1985) reveals Heaney’s gift for finding his place in the canon even as his patrilineal trajectory towards ‘major-poet’ status vindicates the feminist case against patriarchal bias.

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Seamus Heaney in Context , pp. 265 - 275
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2021

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