Maurice Harmon

CriticismCommentary

Life
b. N. Co. Dublin, the son of head gardener at Ardgillan Castle, Balbriggan, Co. Dublin [aka Fingall]; ed. at boarding-school and later at UCD; took PhD at Harvard University where he studied under John Kelleher; appt. Associate Professor of Anglo-Irish Literature and Drama at University College, Dublin; acted as editor University Review 1966-70, and later as ed. of Irish University Review: A Journal of Irish Studies, 1970-86;
 
he has taught variously at Ohio State University (Visiting Prof.); the University of Washington, Marshall University; Boston College, and Kobe College (Japan); holder of John Deaver and Elizabeth Gibson Drinko Distinguished Chair in Liberal Arts, Huntington, W. Virginia, 1992; issued studies of Thomas Kinsella (1974) and Richard Murphy (1978);
 
issued Sean O’Faolain: A Life (1994), following an earlier critical introduction to O’Faolain (1966, rev. 1984); ed. Correspondence of Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider (1999); after retirement, Harmon issued several collections of poetry incl. The Last Regatta (2001), issued The Doll with Two Backs and Other Poems (2005), and Mischievous Boy (2008); he served as editor of Poetry Ireland, 2001-02, and famously issued “Reply to a Poet” in verse;
 
he lectured on the ‘sombre cast of Kinsella’s mind’ at the W. B. Yeats Summer School (Sligo, 2003); his Collected Essays were edited by Barbara Traxler Brown in 2006; also issued Thomas Kinsella: Designing for the Exact Needs (2008), an authoritative study of the poet; he translated Acallam na Senórach/Dialogue Colloquy of the Ancients of Ireland (2009);
 
he was honoured at his 80th birthday by production of “Of Cailte’s Time” by Derek Bell (HCH, Dublin), a harp suite inspired by his translation of Acallam na Senorach (16 June 2010); Professor Harmon served as contractual Project Adviser to PGIL-EIRData 2000-04; m. Máire, with whom two children. FDA

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Works
General Criticism
  • Modern Irish Literature 1800-1875: A Reader’s Guide (Dublin: Dolmen Press 1967), 71pp.;
  • with Patrick Rafroidi, ed., The Irish Novel in Our Time [Cahiers Irlandaises, 4-5, 1975-76] ([Villeneuve -d’Ascq]: Pubs. de l’Université de Lille III 1976), 424pp. [incl. Harmon, ‘Generations Apart: 1935-1975’, pp.63-77];
  • A Literary Map of Ireland (Dublin: Wolfhound 1977);
  • ed., Image and Illusion: Anglo-Irish Literature and its Contexts (1979);
  • [ed.,] with Roger McHugh, Short History of Anglo-Irish Literature (1982);
  • ed., The Irish Writer and the City (Gerrrards 1984).
Author studies
  • Sean O’Faolain: A Critical Introduction (1966, rev. edn 1984);
  • The Poetry of Thomas Kinsella: ‘With Darkness for a Nest’ (Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1974);
  • Austin Clarke 1896-1974: A Critical Introduction (Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1988; Barnes & Noble 1989), [192]pp.;
  • Sean O’Faolain: A Life (London: Constable 1994), 326pp., ill. [12pp. of photos].;
  • Thomas Kinsella: Designing for the Exact Needs (Dublin: IAP 2008), 292pp.
Chapters [sel.]
  • ‘First Impressions: 1968-78’, in The Irish Short Story, ed. Terence Brown & Patrick Rafroidi (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979), pp.65-76 [see extract];
  • ‘Generations Apart: 1935-1975’, The Irish Novel in Our Time, ed. Rafroidi & Harmon (Lille: 1979), q.pp.;
  • ‘Seamus Heaney: Digger of the Middle Ground’, in The Harp, 13 (Japan 1998), pp.1-13.
Bibliography
  • Select Bibliography for the Study of Anglo-Irish Literature and its Background: An Irish Studies Handbook (Dublin: Wolfhound 1977).
 
Miscellaneous
  • ed., Fenians & Fenianism ([UCD] Dublin: University Review 1968), 89pp. [contents];
  • ed., Wild Goose Lodge and Other Stories by William Carleton (Cork: Mercier 1973) [Vol. I of 4, as infra], with a ‘General Introduction’ [see full text in RICORSO Library, “Critical Classics” > Anglo-Irish, via index, or direct];
  • ed., The Celtic Master: Contributions to the First James Joyce Symposium Held in 1967 (Dolmen Press 1969) [reviewed by Arnold Goldman, in Review of English Studies, May 1971, pp237-39 - view extract as jpeg];
  • ed., “Austin Clarke Special Issue” [of] Irish University Review (1974), 155pp. [see under Clarke, “Criticism”, infra];
  • ed., Richard Murphy: Poet of Two Traditions (Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1978), 128pp.
  • ed., Irish Poetry after Yeats: Seven Poets (Wolfhound 1979; 1997);
  • ed., Irish Poets After Yeats: Seven Poets (Dublin: Wolfhound 1978; rep. 1997), 232pp. [contents];
  • ed., No Author Better Served: The Correspondence of Samuel Beckett and Alan Schneider (Harvard UP 1999), 508pp.
  • trans., The Dialogue of the Ancients of Ireland: A New Translation of Acallam na Senórach (Dublin: Carysfort Press 2009), 130pp.
Poetry
  • The Book Of Precedence and Other Poems (Cork: Three Spires 1994), 22pp.;
  • A Stillness at Kiawah ( Dublin: Three Spires Press 1996), 26pp.;
  • The Last Regatta and Other Poems (Galway: Salmon Press 2000) [NLI signed copy is No.16];
  • Tales of Death and Other Poems (Belfast: Lapwing 2001), 33pp.;
  • The Doll with Two Backs and Other Poems (Galway: Salmon Press 2005), 71pp. [incls. “Prelude”, a history of America; “Broken Lights, Broken Lances”];
  • The Mischievous Boy and Other Poems (Moher: Salmon Press 2008), 80pp.;
  • Maurice Harmon, When Love Is Not Enough: New and Selected Poems (Moher: Salmon Press 2010), 120pp.
Criticism (collected)
  • Barbara Brown, ed., Maurice Harmon: Selected Essays, with a foreword by Terence Brown (Dublin: IAP 2006), 248pp. [sects. “Beginnings in prose and Poetry”, “Developments in Prose”, and “Developments in Poetry” - see extract]
  • Honouring the Word: Poetry and Prose, celebrating Maurice Harmon on his 80th birthday, ed. Barbara Brown (Salmon Press 2010), 74pp. [see contribs.]

See also “Personal Helicons: Irish Poets and Tradition” (ded to Patrick Early) - a poem from Greetings to Our Friends in Brazil: One Hundred Poems (1999) - attached.

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Bibliographical Details

Fenians & Fenianism, ed. by Maurice Harmon (University Review 1968), 89pp. CONTENTS: Harmon, Introduction [although the Fenian Rising of 1867 was only a gesture, its effects have permeated Irish life and literature]; Donal McCartney, ‘The Church and the Fenians’ [11]; Seán Ó Súilleabháin, The Iveragh Fenians in Oral Tradition’ [24]; Norman McCord, ‘The Fenians and Public Opinion in Great Britain’ [35]; Malcolm Brown, ‘Fenianism and Irish Poetry’ [49]; Hereward Senior, ‘The Place of Fenianism in the Irish Republican Tradition’ [58]; Robin B. Burns, ‘D’Arcy McGee and the Fenians’ [68]; Michael Hurst, ‘Fenianism in the Context of World History’ [82].

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Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry, ed. & intro. by Maurice Harmon (Cork: Mercier Press 1973), Vol. I: Wildgoose Lodge and Other Stories [Mercier Irish Classics, Vol. 1] (Cork: Mercier Press 1973), 119pp.; styled ‘one of eight vols. containing a complete and unabridged edition of William Carleton’s Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry’ [discontinued after 4]. Vol. 1 - CONTENTS: “Wildgoose Lodge” [1]; “Ned M’Keown” [21]; “The Lianhan Shee” [50]; “The Lough Derg Pilgrim” [81]. Note further vols. in the series - Vol 2: Denis O’Shaugnessy Goes to Maynooth, 144pp.; Vol. 3: Phelim O’Toole’s Courtship and Other Stories; Vol. 4: The Party Fight and Funeral; Vol. 5, The Battle of the Factions and Other Stories; Vol. 6, Poor Scholar; Vol. 7, The Station and Other Stories; Vol. 8, Tubber Derg or the Red Well . [No further editions issued in this series. Note that the series 1-4 is oddly listed as ‘essay / festschrift’ against ‘genre’ in the TCD Lib. Catalogue - via COPAC. ]

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Irish Poetry After Yeats: Seven Poets (Dublin: Wolfhound Press 1979), 231pp. with introduction and select bibliography, containing poems of Austin Clarke, Patrick Kavanagh, Denis Devlin, Richard Murphy, Thomas Kinsella, John Montague, and Seamus Heaney.

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Honouring the Word: Celebrating Maurice Harmon, compiled and ed. by Barbara Brown (Moher: Salmon Press 2010), 74pp. Contribs. Rory Brennan, Seamus Cashman, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Patrick Cotter, John F Deane, Theo Dorgan, John Ennis, Peter Fallon, Roderick Ford, Biddy Jenkinson, Thomas Kinsella, Jessie Lendennie, Michael Longley, Thomas McCarthy, Iggy McGovern, Paula Meehan, Noel Monahan, John Montague, Richard Murphy, Christopher Murray, Eugene O’Connell, Mary O’Donnell, Bernard O’Donoghue, Dennis O’Driscoll, Sheila O’Hagan, Micheal O’Siadhail, Paul Perry, Rosemarie Rowley, Peter Sirr, Gerard Smyth, Joseph Woods, Macdara Woods. 

For listing of further posts and publications see separate file, attached.

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Criticism
Brian Donnelly, ‘Maurice Harmon: A Checklist of Publications’, in Irish University Review, 22, 1 (Spring/Summer 1992), p.186-[89], with a cover-portrait; Oliver Marshall, review of The Last Regatta, in The Irish Times [q.d.; 2001] writes of ‘excellent poems [with] an innate grasp of form’, and ‘a first rate collection’; see also Hugh McFadden, review of Harmon, Thomas Kinsella: Designing for the Exact Needs, in Books Ireland (Dec. 2008), p.287.

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Commentary
Rory Brennan, review of Selected Essays, in Books Ireland (Dec. 2006), 288: ‘It cannot be said that Harmon is a contentious writer. If the list of authors above is somewhat over-familiar to to the well-apprenticed Irish reader, they are not to the young who come here to study. Were I to teach a course in Anglo-Irish Irish literature, as I have done a couple of times, I would put this book high on my list. If Harmon does not bother to be contentious neither does he bother to be “brilliant”. As Conor Cruise O’Brien remarked of another figure, “brilliance was not a term of praise with him”. The need to shine, to polish up a flashy insight, to resort to the shabby glitter of scorn, to deal in the debased coinage of sententious terms, to write for an audience that may further personal ambition - all these are things, one senses, that Harmon finds repugnant. Essay after essay is informative erudite, balanced, indeed that old-fashioned ideal, a model of its kind. Harmon is an entertaining writer without a hint of that thesis-monger, Dr Plod the PhD. He has set his standards and has lived up to them. By helping us to decide what will last, he will last too.’

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Quotations

See poems from The Last Regatta and Other Poems (2000) [attached].

The Era of Inhibitions: Irish Literature 1920-1960’, in Irish Writers and Society at Large, ed. Masura Sekine (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1985): ‘Much of the period’s literature is concerned with the problem of the effects of inhibition on the individual and on the country. Keenly aware of the forces that curtail freedom, the writers give imaginative portrayal to characters, situations, and themes that select, evaluate and judge the moral consequences of an over-restrictive environment.’ (p.36.)

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First Impressions: 1968-78’, in The Irish Short Story, ed. Terence Brown & Patrick Rafroidi (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1979): ‘[...] The new writers are on the whole not experimentalists in terms of form or of narrative techniques, iondeed less so than some of the contemporary novelists. The classic form of the short story, as practicesed by Mary Lavin, Frank O’Connor, Liam O’Flaherty and Sean O’Faolain, is still the accepted mode. This involves a chronological narrative, with minimal characterisation, careful attention to setting, one or two incidents, a taut control of tone and development, and the general sense of all the ingredients moving towards a moment of insight. Not all the new writers ahve this sort of idea in mind, nor are they restricted by these conventions, but their innovations are not radical and are found mainly in the work of two writers, Neil Jordan and Desmond Hogan.’ (p.65.) [Cont.]

First Impressions: 1968-78’ (The Irish Short Story, ed. Brown & Rafroidi, 1979) - cont.: ‘Nor are the new writers much concerned with revolutionary nationalism [...] the cause that never dies has in fact withered in the past ten years and has little appeal to the literary imagination; the gunman lacks the mystique of nationalism, the myth of heroism, or the sanction of tradition. When the violence in Northern Ireland appears in the contemporary story, it does so as a context and background, and as something to get away from. John Morrow alone seems able to present it with a healthy black humour.’ (p.65; goes on to cite his own ‘Generations Apart: 1935-1975’, in The Irish Novel in Our Time, ed. Rafroidi & Harmon.) [For longer extract, see RICORSO Library, “Critical Classics” > Anglo-Irish, infra.]

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Imaginative integrity: ‘A writer’s work can be said to have imaginative integrity when it contains a pattern of recurrent situations and characters.’ (Sean O’Faolain: A Critical Study, 1994, p.82; quoted in Ivor Faulkner, “Realism in the Short Fiction of John McGahern”, UU MA Diss., 2007, p.30.)

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Personal Helicons: Irish Poets and Tradition’, in Selected Essays, ed. Barbara Brown, with a foreword by Terence Brown (Dublin: IAP 2006) [pp.185-210; containing close readings of multi-cultural poetry by Yeats, Kinsella, Heaney, Longley and Harmon himself involving chiefly draughts on Irish and classical (Graeco-Roman) culture]: ‘Understanding the conditions under which Irish writing has been produced helps to clarify its evolution and present state. As an island country with a recently lost language and culture and in close proximity to the rich and dominant English literary tradition, It was important for Irish writers in the late nineteenth century, when they began to develop a literature of their own in the English language, to distance themselves from English literature and to establish strong identifying connections with their own traditions and their own places. At that time English poets went for source material to classical authors (as Robert Browning had done), to the Arthurian cycles (as Alfred Lord Tennyson had done), or to Norse saga (as William Morris had done). The practice of drawing upon sources within Irish tradition did not begin with W. B. Yeats, but when he published The Wanderings of Oisin in 1889, he was making a statement about independence. As part of his programme to create an indigenous literature in Ireland, he drew widely from Irish culture for plays, short poems and poetic narratives.’ [Cont.]

Note: Previously published under the same title in Irish Studies in Brazil [Pesquisa e Crítica, 1], ed. Munira H. Mutran & Laura P. Z. Izarra (Associação Editorial Humanitas 2005), pp.185-210.]

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Personal Helicons: Irish Poets and Tradition’ (in Selected Essays, 2006) - cont: ‘There was also a sense that Irish culture was under threat from a variety of causes – primarily from the dominant English influence, but also from massive emigration, all the media, increasing [185] travel and more recently the emergence of a multi-cultural population. While there are positive aspects to these forces of change, such as the invigoration of new ideas and new approaches, the negative aspects of cultural erosion and linguistic loss were considerable. The result was a determination to rescue tradition, to seek out Irish language texts, to edit and translate them, to reach back to the medieval period and to draw deeply from the earliest literature of myth, saga, and vernacular poetry.’ (pp.185-86.)

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References
University of Ulster Library holds Seán O’Faoláin A Critical Introduction (1966); Modern Irish literature, 1800-1967: a Reader’s Guide (1967); Fenians and Fenianism: Centenary Essays (Dublin: Sceptre Books 1968); The poetry of Thomas Kinsella: ‘with darkness for a nest’ (1974); Select bibliography for the study of Anglo-Irish literature and its backgrounds (1977); with Roger McHugh, Short history of Anglo-Irish literature from its origins to the present day (1982); Austin Clarke 1896-1974: A Critical Introduction (Dublin: Wolfhound 1989); The Celtic master: contributions to the first James Joyce Symposium held in 1967 (Dolmen Press 1969); ed., J. M. Synge Centenary Papers (1972); with Patrick afroidi, et al., The Irish Novel in Our Time (1975); Image & Illusion: Anglo-Irish literature and Its Contexts: a festschrift for Roger McHugh (1979); ed., Irish Poetry after Yeats: Seven Poets (Wolfhound 1979; 1997); ed., The Irish Writer and the City (1984).

Internet: Several of his poems from The Last Regatta are printed on the Salmon Poetry website [vide www.salmonpoetry.com/regatta.html].

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Notes
Guys & Dolls; The title poem in A Doll with Two Backs concerns a relationship between a visiting Irish academic and a native American girl.

PGIL EIRData: Maurice Harmon was engaged for four years (2000-2004) as Academic Advisor to Princess Grace Irish Library edition of the EIRData website project at the University of Ulster. He also served on the selection committee for the Princess Grace Irish Library Writers’ Bursaries of the International Ireland Funds (Monaco).

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Celebrating Maurice: The 80th birthday of Maurice Harmon was celebrated marked by a performance of “Of Cailte’s Time” by Derek Bell at concert in the Kevin Barry Room of the National Concert Hall, Dublin, 16 June 2010, a suite for the Irish harp inspired by Harmon’s translation of Acallam na Senorach. The concert was presented by harper-composer Ann-Marie O’Farrell with Séamus MacGabhann as speaker.

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