Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



The goal of this dissertation is three-fold: to mount a comparison of Seamus Heaney and Paul Muldoon, arguing that the two poets actually share much in common, particularly in their use of the pastoral mode; to argue that the pastoral mode offers a provocative, even radical platform for postcolonial writing and thinking; and to argue that reading Heaney and Muldoon, and Ireland in general, as postcolonial offers much for critics and scholars. This project looks particularly at Heaney’s use of gender in landscape to argue that Heaney relies on an abject pastoral mode, one which is dominated by excess fertility and dangerous maternity, to portray an Irish landscape that is both colonially scarred and potentially radically anti-colonial. These readings stretch from Heaney’s early pastoral poems to his famous sequence of bog poems and through to his much more recent eclogues, and in each instance this project seeks to bring a discussion of gender to the fore—thus making an intervention into the existing scholarship, which often overlooks or elides these concerns. The latter chapters focus on Paul Muldoon’s poems, arguing that Muldoon’s pastoral poems use the pastoral as a platform for writing about Irish cultural tropes and stereotypes. This project divides Muldoon’s pastoral poems into two groups: the first, his pastoral performances, are marked by his use of the pastoral as a setting from which to play with stock characters and commodified Irish culture in a way that both mocks and celebrates such tropes; the second, his “water poems,” use bodies of water as a form of landscape writing that enables Muldoon both to ground his identity to Northern Ireland and to take flight, embarking on transatlantic crossings from Northern Ireland to America to the Amazon and back again. In these readings of Muldoon, this project seeks to establish a reading of Muldoon that explores and celebrates his roots in the rural and the natural—a perspective that is often lost in Muldoon scholarship, which traditionally has been much more concerned with global, urban, and cosmopolitan concerns.



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Committee Chair

Rastogi, Pallavi