Seamus Heaney Memorial Lecture
The Seamus Heaney Memorial Lecture Series honors the celebrated Irish poet who was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1995 “for works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past.”
In his lecture to receive his Nobel Prize, Heaney credited poetry for its “power to persuade that vulnerable part of our consciousness of its rightness in spite of the evidence of wrongness all around it, the power to remind us that we are hunters and gatherers of values, that our very solitudes and distresses are creditable, in so far as they, too, are an earnest of our veritable human being.”
About the lecture series
The Seamus Heaney Memorial Lecture series was inaugurated in 2014, marking the first anniversary of the poet's death on August 30, 2013.
Heaney had a special relationship with the Keough-Naughton Institute and the University of Notre Dame. He visited the university in 1994 and 2003, giving poetry readings to overflowing auditoriums. In 2008, University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. awarded Heaney an honorary degree at the Keough-Naughton Centre in Dublin. He was lifelong friend of Seamus Deane, the initial Donald and Marilyn Keough Chair of Irish Studies; the pair met as schoolmates at St. Columb’s College, a Catholic boys' grammar school in Derry, Northern Ireland.
While difficult to measure his influence, in response to Heaney’s passing, then-Taoiseach Enda Kenny said, “For us, Seamus Heaney was the keeper of language, our codes, our essence as a people. He belongs with Joyce, Yeats, Shaw, and Beckett in the pantheon of our greatest literary exponents.” This annual event honors his memory and his outstanding contributions to Irish and world literature.
2023: Catherine Flynn — “Mad King Sween(e)y: Gender and Nationality in Sweeney Astray and At Swim-Two-Birds”
On February 15, 2023, Catherine Flynn, Associate Professor of English and Director of Irish Studies at the University of California Berkeley, delivered the annual Seamus Heaney Memorial Lecture. A scholar of British and Irish modernist literature in a European avant-garde context, her book, James Joyce and the Matter of Paris, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2019. The lecture took place at the University of Notre Dame.Read more
2021: Roy Foster, in conversation with Barry McCrea
On November 29, 2021, Roy Foster, former Carroll Professor of Irish History at the University of Oxford and honorary fellow of Hertford College, appeared in conversation with Barry McCrea, Keough Family Chair of Irish Studies at the University of Notre Dame. Organized in association with Hertford College and taking place at the University of Oxford, this hybrid event focused on themes in Foster’s recent book On Seamus Heaney(Princeton University Press, 2020).Read more
2021: Rosie Lavan — “‘Tuning the Medium’: Seamus Heaney and the First-Person Plural.”
On May 13, 2021, Rosie Lavan, lecturer, Trinity College Dublin, delivered a virtual Heaney Memorial Lecture for the 2020-2021 academic year, titled “‘Tuning the Medium’: Seamus Heaney and the First-Person Plural.” Her book, Seamus Heaney and Society (Oxford University Press, 2020), aims to re-situate Seamus Heaney’s work in its varied textual, cultural, institutional, and political contexts, paying close attention to his early journalism and work for radio and television, and to his key institutional affiliations in publishing, broadcasting, and education in Ireland, Britain, and the United States. In her lecture, Lavan examined Heaney’s poetry of collective experience during the time of his mid- to late career. Her particular focus was on the poem “From the Canton of Expectation” in The Haw Lantern (1987).Read moreWatch the lecture
2018: Eve Patten — “Heaney, Auden, and the Age of Anxiety.”
In the Seamus Heaney Memorial Lecture on October 26, 2018, Eve Patten, Professor of English and Director of the Oscar Wilde Centre at Trinity College, Dublin, spoke on “Heaney, Auden, and the Age of Anxiety.” Taking its cue from Heaney’s essay “Sounding Auden,” this lecture revisited Heaney’s complex response to his predecessor W.H. Auden’s “hungering for a form” against a backdrop of world crisis, and considered—seven decades after the appearance of Auden’s “The Age of Anxiety”—the role of poetry in apprehensive times.Read more
2017: Rónán McDonald — “Crediting Heaney”
Rónán McDonald, Professor of Modern Literature and Director of Irish Studies at the University of New South Wales, Sydney, delivered the annual Seamus Heaney Memorial Lecture — “Crediting Heaney” — on September 28, 2017. McDonald spoke on the concept of “credit” in Seamus Heaney’s work, both as an ascription of value to art and a wily negotiation of faith and belief. The lecture looked at Heaney’s justifications of poetry and its purpose in his critical essays and in his ars poetica (poems about poetry), alert to various configurations of balance and equilibrium.Read more
2016: Declan Kiberd — “Modernism in the Streets: Joyce, Pearse and Stephens in 1916”
Declan Kiberd, the Donald and Marilyn Keough Professor of Irish Studies, Professor of English and Irish Language and Literature, delivered the annual Seamus Heaney lecture on September 2, 2016. The lecture, titled “Modernism in the Streets: Joyce, Pearse and Stephens in 1916” took place in the Morris Inn at the University of Notre Dame.Read more
2015: Chris Morash — “Heaney, Place, and Property”
Christopher Morash, Seamus Heaney Professor of Irish Writing at Trinity College Dublin presented the second annual Seamus Heaney Memorial Lecture, titled “Heaney, Place, and Property”, on September 4, 2015 in the Hesburgh Library, Rare Books and Special Collections.
The 2015 Seamus Heaney Memorial Lecture brought together what at first might seem to be two widely different areas of concern: some of the philosophical consideration of place, particularly as it takes shape in the late work of Heidegger; and, the recent economic crisis of property value in Ireland.Read more
2014: Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and John Kelly — “‘To set the darkness echoing’: in memoriam Seamus Heaney, 1939-2013”
The inaugural Seamus Heaney Memorial Lecture, titled “‘To set the darkness echoing’: in memoriam Seamus Heaney, 1939-2013”, took place on August 28, 2014 in the Morris Inn at the University of Notre Dame. The lecture featured a poetry reading by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill and remarks by John Kelly.
Ní Dhomhnaill, renowned Irish language poet, read an elegy she wrote for Heaney as well as two of her poems, “Mo Mhile Stór” and “Féar Suaithinseach,” which Heaney translated into English. Following Heaney, she was the second holder of the Ireland Professor of Poetry at Trinity College Dublin, University College Dublin and Queen's University Belfast. She is a past Distinguished Professor of Irish Poetry and Naughton Fellow in the Keough-Naughton Institute for Irish Studies. Her accolades include winning the American Ireland Fund Literature Prize, and her work has been translated into multiple languages.
John Kelly, Emeritus Research Fellow at St. John’s College, Oxford, has written extensively on 19th and 20th-century literature and is General Editor of The Collected Letters of W. B. Yeats, which is being published in 12 volumes. He has also edited and introduced a 12-volume series of Irish fiction, poetry and essays of the nineteenth century, under the title ‘Hibernia: State and Nation’, and his W. B. Yeats Chronology appeared in 2003. He was the Distinguished Donald R. Keough Visiting Professor at the Keough-Naughton Institute in the fall of 2014.Read more