Redress in Seamus Heaney’s Poetry

  • Saima Khan

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Drawing on Seamus Heaney’s collection of essays, The Redress of Poetry, this thesis examines the different connotations of the word ‘redress’, and demonstrates the way in which and the extent to which, Heaney’s notions of ‘redress’ are borne out by his poetry. The word redress has a very large semantic field. Many of its meanings have been noted as obsolete by The Oxford English Dictionary, yet each of them is relevant to Heaney’s ideas about creativity. The large
semantic field of the word covers all the aspects of creativity defined by Heaney in his poetry as well as his prose. He writes that poetry can offer ‘reparation and compensation for a wrong sustained or the loss resulting from this’. It can ‘cure’ and ‘heal’. It can restore and re-establish culture, language and traditions. On a social and individual level, by bring[ing] back (a person) to the right course it can ‘correct’, ‘amend’, ‘reform’ and ‘direct aright’ (RP 2). It can create an alternative reality which may balance out against the historical and thereby redress balance in society. This thesis explores and employs these obsolete meanings of the word and thereby extends Heaney’s project which, in addition to ‘redressing poetry as poetry’, also entails redeeming the word from obsolescence. Although redress as defined in The Redress of Poetry remains the key issue throughout the thesis, it is approached from a variety of theoretical perspectives. On the metapoetic and aesthetic level, the thesis refers to Romantic and Modernist theories regarding poetry and the role of the poet. The redress on the psychological level is explored in connection with Carl Jung’s concept of Individuation and wholeness, and the poet’s political and postcolonial redress is discussed in the light of Edward Said’s concept of Orientalism and Imperialism.
Date of AwardDec 2020
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsVice Chanchellor's Research Scholarship
SupervisorKathleen Mc Cracken (Supervisor)


  • Redress
  • Counter
  • Resist
  • Defamiliarization
  • Transform

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