Seán Ó Tuama


Life
1926-2006; b. Cork, raised bilingually; entered UCC, 1942; student of Daniel Corkery (‘that splendid teacher of English literature’); appt. Professor of Irish at UCC, 1967; studied modern drama in France on Arts Council scholarship, 1955-56; completed a PhD on the relation of Irish folksong poetry and French medieval poetry, published as An Grá in Amhráin na nDaoine (1960); ed. and intro., Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire (1961; rep. 1979); issued Faoileán na Beatha (1962), poetry;
 
appt. visiting professor, Harvard, 1966; issued Moloney agus Drámaí Eile (1967), short plays; Gunna Cam agus Sleabhra Oir (1967; rep. 1974), a play concerning the Gaelic reaction in the reigns of James V and Henry VIII, produced in 1969 [var. ‘gunna gallghlas’ and ‘slabhra buidhe’]; his collected poems were published as Soal fó Thoinn (1978); ed., The Gaelic League Idea (1972; rep. Cork 1993); appt. Research Professor, Oxford, 1977; issued Filí faoi Sceimhle [Poets under Pressure] (1978), a study of Sean Ó Ríordáin and Aogán Ó Rathaille; ed., Nuabhéarsaíocht [1939-49] (1950; rep. 1974);
 
co-ed with Thomas Kinsella [trans.], An Duanaire/Poems of the Dispossessed (Dublin 1981), called in the preface ‘an act of repossession that is required - and has [...] been proceeding for some time’; also issued Repossessions: Selected Essays on Irish Literary Heritage (1995); d. Sept. 2006 [obit. Irish Times]. DIW FDA OCIL

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Works
Plays
  • Gunna Cam agus Sleabhra Oir (Baile Átha Cliath: Sáirséal agus Dill 1967; rep. 1974);
  • Moloney agus Drámaí Eile (Baile Átha Cliath: Sáirséal agus Dill 1967; rep. 2008), 175pp. [short plays].
Poetry
  • Faoileán na Beatha (Baile Átha Cliath: Clóchomhar Teo. 1962);
  • Saol fó Thoínn (Baile Átha Cliath: Clóchomhar Teo 1978).
Criticism
  • An Grá in Amhráin na nDaoine (Baile Átha Cliath: Sáirséal agus Dill 1960);
  • Filí faoi Sceimhle [Poets under Pressure] ([q.pub.] 1978),
  • Repossessions: Selected Essays on Irish Literary Heritage (Cork UP 1995), 310pp. [infra].
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Miscellaneous
  • ed., Caoineadh Airt Ui Laoghaire (Baile Átha Cliath: Clóchomhar Teo. 1961);
  • ed., The Gaelic League Idea [RTÉ Thomas Davis Ser.] (Cork: Mercier 1972) [incl. David Greene, ‘The Founding of the Gaelic League’; Tomas Ó Fiaich, ‘The Great Controversy’; Kevin B. Nowlan, ‘The Gaelic League and Other National Movements’; Desmond Fennell, ‘The State of the Nation ... in the Sixties’, et al.];
  • ed., & sel., with Thomas Kinsella [trans.], An Duanaire: Poems of the Dispossessed 1600-1900, (Dublin: Dolmen 1981; rep. 1985, 1990), 382pp. [see USA edn., details];
  • ed., The Gaelic League Idea (Mercier 1972); ‘Fáistine na litríochta’, in Feasta XIV, 12 (1961), pp.10-14, 30-34;
  • ‘Synge and the Idea of a National Literature’, in J. M. Synge Centenary Papers 1971, ed. Maurice Harmon (Dublin: Dolmen 1972), pp.1-17;
  • ‘Seán Ó Riordáin agus a Nuafilíocht’, in Studia Hibernica, 13 (1973), pp.100-67;
  • ‘The Other Tradition: Some Highlights in Modern Fiction in Irish’, in The Irish Novel in Our Time, ed. Patrick Rafroidi & Maurice Harmon (Université de Lille 1976), pp.31-45;
  • ‘Changing Gaelic Tradition’, in Threshold, 32 [guest ed., Seamus Deane] (Winter 1982), pp.41-51 [[on Ó Máirtín Ó Cadhain, et al.;
  • ‘Úrscéal agus Faisnési Beatha na Gaeilge, Na Buaicphointí’, in Scríobh 5 (Dublin 1981), pp.148-60;
  • ‘Ceathrúna Phádraigín Haicéad’, in The Irish Review, 23, 1 (Dec. 1998), pp.1-23.
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Bibliographical details

An Duanaire: An Irish Anthology 1600-1900: Poems of the Dispossessed, presented by Seán Ó Tuama, with verse translations by Thomas Kinsella (Pennsylvania UP 1981), 382pp. [100 poems; with phonetic glossary of names].

Repossessions: Selected Essays on Irish Literary Heritage (Cork UP 1995), 320pp., essays on work of Nuala Ní Domhnaill, Seán Ó Riordaín [sic], and close reading of Irish lyrics by Máirtín Ó Direáin, Cadháin, Seán Ó Riordaín, and a poem collected by Hyde; essays on Brian Merriman; Lament for Art O’Leary; Aogán Ó Rathaille and the crisis of Gaelic culture; European context of Irish love poetry; Daniel Corkery; Synge; development of twentieth-century Irish literature. (pub. Nov. 1995).
Table of Contents  
Acknowledgements page
Notes and Abbreviations
Foreword
ix
xi
xiii
PART I: MODERN POETRY IN IRISH  
1. Background
2. Seán Ó Riordáin, Modern Poet
3. “The Loving and Terrible Mother” in the Early Poetry of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill
3
10
35
PART II: SEVENTEENTH AND EIGHTEENTH-CENTURY POETRY  
4. Background
5. Brian Merriman and his Court
6. The Lament for Art O’Leary
7. The World of Aogán ” Rathaille [see under Ó Rathaille, q.v.]
8. Gaelic Culture in Crisis: The Literary Response (1600-1850)
9. Love in Irish Folksong
57
63
78
101
119
134
PART III: EARLY MODERN IRISH POETRY (1200-1600)  
10. Background
11. Love in the Medieval Irish Literary Lyric
161
164
PART IV: OCCASIONAL  
12. Some Highlights of Modern Fiction in Irish
13. A Writer’s Testament
14. Synge and the Idea of a National Literature
15. Daniel Corkery, Cultural Philosopher, Literary Critic: A Memoir
16. Celebration of Place in Irish Writing [see extract under Kavanagh, q.v.]
17. Three Lyrics I Like
Chapter Notes
Index
199
212
219
234
248
267
275
287

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Commentary
Prionsias Ó Drisceoil
, review of Repossessions (1995), in Irish Times (?3.2.1996), remarking that Ó Tuama strongly defends Corkery whose hidden Ireland sought to ‘portray a literature’ rather than write a social history of 18th c. Munser poetry; also notes emphasis he plays on personal poetic voice, in distinction from the readings of Gaelic poetry by Angela Bourke (taking ‘Lament for Art O’Leary’ as an exponent of a history of oral poetry by women), and Breandán Ó Buachalla, who read Aoghan Ó Rathaille’s ‘Is fada liom óich fhirfliuch’ as pastoral elegy rather than autobiographical testament.

Celia de Fréine, review of Repossessions (1995), in Books Ireland (March 1996), pp.65-66; essays hitherto available only in Irish; preface records that in 1950 there was no critical apparatus for Irish texts (‘neither I nor anybody known to me in the field has any inkling how to deal critically with such material’), and speaks of unsatisfactory state of editions today.

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Declan Kiberd, ‘A Recovered Tradition’ [review of Repossessions] in Times Literary Supplement (27 Sept. 1996), p.14; emphasises the author’s devotion to ‘the poem itself’; his place in the tradition of Corkery and Clarke, as rescuing the study of Irish from grammarians and philologists; as ‘someone haunted by the mysterious protocols of art, and anxious to study great poems on the off-chance that their illumination might give rise to one or two more’, and particularly of his influence on a generation of poets from UCC, including Nuala Ní Dhomhnall, Gabriel Rosenstock, Michael Davitt and Liam Ó Muirthile who derive from their maistír a sense of the dignity of the poet’s calling, as well as ‘an awareness of the primary importance of style, form and poetic’; treats Irish and Anglo-Irish writing as a ‘continuum’.

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Declan Kiberd, ‘A Portrait of the Artist as a Repo-Man’, in Irish Literary Supplement (Fall 1996), p.7; ‘If Ó Tuama’s devotion to “the poem itself” and his avowed distrust of heavy-duty critical theory expose him to the charge of being a little old-fashioned now (as certain reviewers have claimed), thens so be it. it is not a small thing to have written the most memorable interpretations of Cúirt an Mhéan Oíche, or Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire … [&c.]’ Further: ‘Ó Tuama has been so pervasive in influence that many students are in danger of forgetting just how much of their minds he has invented. [...] A cultural critic of real scope, he is in fact far less old-fashioned than he himself may think.’

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Quotations
National literature: ‘The continuing individuality of any national literature is primarily going to depend, not on the past artistic achievements of the nation, but on its present and enduring patterns of life; on the nation’s culture rather than its Culture’ [from ‘Synge and the Idea of a National Literature’, in J. M. Synge Centenary Papers, ed. Maurice Harmon (1972); and cited in Harmon, ‘New Voices in the Fifties’, Seán Lucy, Irish Poets in English (Mercier 1972), p.204.

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Repossessions: Selected Essays on Irish Literary Heritage (Cork UP 1995), Foreword: ‘[...] Preferring them to develop a taste for literature rather than for criticism, I have never attempted to teach literary theory to undergraduates. I have always believed it necessary, however, to present a poem (initially at any rate) as an independent stylistic construct, standing on its own, with no need of biographical or socio-historical gloss. Once the poem’s worth as a unique utterance has been more or less established or agreed, presenting it at a later stage in its historical or biographical context can certainly deepen the reader's perception of its mood or insight - provided that he/she is careful to recognize that there is no necessary one to one correlation between the historical and biographical “facts” and the “data” which underlie a genuinely creative piece of composition. [...] I find that students who themselves write are invariably more skilled than others in undertaking such an analysis of style. / Style in this context, however, does not necessarily connote for me fine professional writing - rather the unique verbal transformation which occurs when an artist of special sensibility endeavours to communicate his/her individual insight. Very few poets in any country, in any generation, achieve substantial transformational power; genuine poets of a lesser order are also, I believe, quite limited in numbers. This viewpoint, however, need not be presented to students in a way which is likely to discourage them from continuing to write verse themselves. To achieve good professional writing (including various kinds of concerned human reporting) is an ideal to which a great number of people might legitimately aspire, and could be an important act of self-revelation for many.’ (p.15.)

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Personal feeling: ‘A great deal of it is political poetry or a response to social and linguistic injustice. The purely personal lyric voice is rarely heard, except in folk poetry, but there is no mistaking the strong personal feeling that attaches itself to public issues.’ (Repossessions, 1995, p.60; quoted in Callum Boyle, UG Diss., UUC 2003.)

Poems of the Dispossession (1981) - Introduction: ‘The rape of the territories of Ireland, many of them with sacred and heroic associations rooted far back in pre-historic times, was profoundly felt. Certain poems of broad scope by O’Bruadair, Haicead and O’Rathaille bear ample testimony to this. But the poets often fashioned their most successful poems out of the smaller material of daily human consequences.’ (p.xxvii.)

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References
Andrew Carpenter & Peter Fallon, eds., The Writers: A Sense of Place (Dublin: O’Brien Press 1980), selects Three Poems (English versions of poems in Irish), viz., “Where shall we walk?”; “The Poet to his Wife”, from a three act play Four Cheers for Cremation; “A Gaeltacht Rousseau”, anthologised in with photo-port., pp.172-74.

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