A Jungian Reading of Selected Poems of Seamus Heaney

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This book is a study of the poetry of Seamus Heaney collected in his volume Opened Ground, in which the poems are read in Jungian terms. Heaney had referred to himself as “Jungian in religion” and naturally used terms such as “initiation”, “individuation” and the “unconscious” in interviews and essays. Therefore, key Jungian terms are examined in relation to Heaney’s poetic expression of these and explored through at least one poem from each of the collections represented in Opened Ground. This allows for an exploration of the creative tensions involved in the poet’s presentation of personal, poetic and political concerns, while also allowing for further examination of the powerful physicality and musical qualities of the language in which he luxuriates.


“In her ground-breaking analysis, Dr. Atfield proves a careful, kind reader of these authors, setting relevant passages against one another in order to engage both – the mythic poet and the depth psychologist – in a mutually supportive, generative dialogue.” - Professor James S. Baumlin, Department of English, Southwest Missouri State University

“Dr. Atfield’s book has transfigured my reading of the poems [of Seamus Heaney] and added layers of meaning to my understanding of them, both individually and as a whole ... This is a ground-breaking but accessible study ... It is a valuable addition to the literature on the subject.” – Mr. Paul Gregorowksi, Retired, William Morris Further Education College

“Jungian categories and concerns genuinely illuminate the best poetry of a countryman who develops a sense of identity (or ‘individuation,’ to use Jung’s term) through being closer to nature, myth, and archetypal realities than many more urban writers could hope to be. Dr. Atfield’s use of Jung represents an elegant and persuasive vindication of a no-longer entirely fashionable critical approach which has still considerable explanatory power, as she is able to demonstrate.” – Dr. Norman Vance, Professor of English, University of Sussex

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