A & H Colloquium

February 6, 2018

Friday, February 16, 2018, 10 - 11:30am

Malaspina Theatre

Presentation. Dr. Timothy Brownlow, Professor Emeritus in the English Department

'The Importance of Being Seamus: Heaney as Local and Global Poet'

Come early for coffee, juice, cookies, and conversation in the theatre foyer


Dr. Timothy Brownlow, Professor Emeritus in the English Department, will give a talk entitled The Importance of Being Seamus: Heaney as Local and Global Poet. Heaney, who died in 2013, is a significant literary figure. The American poet Robert Lowell once described Heaney as “the most important Irish poet since Yeats.” Heaney won the Nobel Prize in 1995 and, says Brownlow, “created a readership for poetry not known since Tennyson.”


For Dr. Brownlow it has been particularly fascinating watching the upward trajectory of Heaney’s career. In the 1960s Brownlow was the editor of a literary magazine, The Dubliner (named The Dublin Magazine from 1965) that published Heaney, and he remembers the young poet. From his unique vantage point Brownlow will “evaluate Heaney’s authority in a competitive field, as he moves from Irish to global fame.”


For those not familiar with Heaney, the official Nobel Prize website provides some background. Born in April 1939, Heaney’s father owned a small farm of some fifty acres in County Derry in Northern Ireland. Many of his mother’s family were employed in the local linen mill and an aunt had worked "in service" to the mill owners' family. Heaney’s parentage thus contained both the Ireland of the cattle-herding Gaelic past and the Ulster of the Industrial Revolution. Heaney grew up as a country boy, and even though his life was a series of moves farther and farther away from his birthplace, County Derry remained at the heart of much of his poetry.

He began writing when he was a young teacher in Belfast in the early 1960s and soon started to attain public attention. He was associated with a group of poets who were later considered a "Northern School" within Irish writing. Heaney lived in a society deeply divided religiously and politically, a society fated to endure a quarter-century of violence and polarization during the Northern Ireland conflict. “This had the effect not only of darkening the mood of Heaney's work in the 1970s, but also of giving him a deep preoccupation with the question of poetry's responsibilities and prerogatives in the world.” As Heaney wrote and published, his work became increasingly well known. Honour and international fame followed.


Timothy Brownlow, too, was born in Ireland. He left for Canada in 1970 and embarked on a doctorate at York University in Toronto. He expected to return to Ireland or England after his graduate work had been completed but, he later said, Canada “released many of my hidden energies.” Dr. Brownlow taught at VIU from 1992 to 2006. His publications include a scholarly book on John Clare (Oxford University Press, 1983); a collection of poems (Oolichan Books,1998); a book of essays (Oolichan Books, 2008), and numerous reviews, articles, and poems in Ireland, England, the U.S., and Canada.


Some courtesy parking for this presentation will be available. Enter through Gate 5D (access from Fifth Street) and park in the lot to the right. From 9:00 to 10:00 am, a student in a safety vest will be near the entrance to guide you and provide you with a pass for your dashboard. The pass will be good until 1:00 pm. 


For those of you have difficulty with stairs, please reply to this message and we will raise the gate at entrance 5D (access from Fifth Street). With the gate up, it is possible to drive to the theatre door and let someone off there.

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