3/30 Discussion Questions

Heaney’s poems center around the punishment and suffering of women. Why women? Did The Troubles affect men differently than women? How would the poems change if they instead focused on men?

In the song adaptation of Strange Fruit, the singer refers to black bodies hanging from trees. The majority of those hanged were black males. Did anyone else see the black bodies it was referring to as males? How did this affect your reading? If Heaney’s other poems were rewritten and situated within the context of black America, would they focus on men or women?

“The central paradox of the process is that on the one hand, if society is to move forward, then it may be necessary to leave bitter experiences from the past behind. At the same time, many argue that if past hurts are not dealt with then they can provide the seeds for future conflict” (Fitzduff and O’Hagan) Which way do you think is better in order to move forward? What does all of the literature that we have read so far this semester seem to say about it? Is there a way to do both at the same time?



Questions for Week 11: the troubles

I’ve drawn some questions about the material that might help the discussion tomorrow. These include:
1. How useful are the analogies and comparisons with African-Americans and Catholics in the north of Ireland?
2. What kind of different perspectives does studying the Irish and American Civil Rights Movements alongside each other add?
3. Is Seamus Heaney’s criticism of Berndaette Devlin and the Black Panthers fair? What does it say about the limitations of these comparisons?
4. How ethical is Heaney’s approach to representing the troubles? Do some of the depictions of victimhood, particularly its gendered aspects, unsettle you?
5. Is Ciaran Carson’s reading of the poems, posted below, fair?

‘It is as if he is saying suffering like this is natural; these things have always happened; they happened then, they happen now, and that is sufficient ground for understanding and absolution. It is as if there never were and never will be any political consequences of such acts’.

Ciaran Carson, ‘Escaped from the Massacre?’, Honest Ulsterman 50 (1975)