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‘That dark permanence of ancient forms’: Negotiating with the Epic in Northern Irish Poetry of the Troubles

Paul Volsik

in The Oxford Handbook of British and Irish War Poetry

Published in print February 2009 | ISBN: 9780199559602
Published online September 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199559602.013.0036

Series: Oxford Handbooks of Literature

 ‘That dark permanence of ancient forms’: Negotiating with the Epic in Northern Irish Poetry of the Troubles

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This chapter considers two specific areas where the epic is a narrative of armed violence that haunts Seamus Heaney's work, the first being the reappropriation of the diction of Anglo-Saxon or Germanic epic, while the second is his translation of Beowulf. It then examines James MacPherson's pseudo-epic Ossian, a text that helped define the epic in nationalist terms. The chapter also shows that poets who are sympathetic to a nationalist community involved in armed conflict might find themselves negotiating with the topoi that structure a certain construction of the epic. The construction and deconstruction of the nationalist epic is included.

Keywords: epic; armed violence; Seamus Heaney; James MacPherson; Ossian; nationalist community; topoi; construction; deconstruction; nationalist epic

Article.  6404 words. 

Subjects: Literature ; Literary Studies (Poetry and Poets) ; Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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