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Sheehan, M. (2005). Atfield, Rose. ‘“Jungian ground”: Seamus Heaney and the collective unconscious’, Harvest, 2004, 50, 2, pp. 135-48.. J. Anal. Psychol., 50(4):557-558.

(2005). Journal of Analytical Psychology, 50(4):557-558

Atfield, Rose. ‘“Jungian ground”: Seamus Heaney and the collective unconscious’, Harvest, 2004, 50, 2, pp. 135-48.

Review by:
Margaret Sheehan

In this paper Rose Atfield describes how the poet, Seamus Heaney, is familiar with and uses Jungian ideas and concepts in his poetry, particularly those relating to archetypes and the collective unconscious. She traces the development of the use of these ideas in his poetry, giving several examples and linking these to Jungian theory. The paper is divided into three sections which are entitled, ‘Beyond Ego’, ‘The Voice’ and ‘More than Autobiography’.

The central theme of the paper is Atfield's description of how Heaney moves from a predominantly personal perspective in his poetry to including the role of the family and the wider cultural dimension, as well as collective forces and his knowledge and interest in Jungian ideas. Early in the paper she refers to Heaney's The Government of the Tongue where he talks of ‘the poet's need to get beyond ego in order to become the voice of more than autobiography’ (Heaney 1988, p. 148) and elsewhere to the poet's recognition of the enormous responsibilities and pressures attached to such a task. Heaney's knowledge and awareness of Jungian ideas is evidenced by his references to the unconscious and to the archetypes, and by his emphasis on the importance of myth. The author comments on a conversation between Heaney and Borges where the poet speaks of ‘Jungian archetypes’ as ‘valid explanations of what we experience in the subconscious worlds of dreams and fiction’ (Heaney 1983, p.

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