Allusion and ambiguity in Seamus Heaney's "Blackberry-Picking"


  • Jonathan P.A. Sell



Heaney, Seamus, Blackberry-Picking, Literatura irlandesa, Alusión, Ambigüedad


This paper subjects the function of allusion first to a stylistic and then to a more pragmatic analysis. It is argued that allusion is interactive and enables the construction of a community or culture in which the sender invites the receiver to share. In the case of Heaney’s short lyric, it is shown how allusions to Keats at first sight persuade readers of the existence of a shared community with the poet that is founded on shared cultural experiences. However, this sense of community is problematised by the experiential disjunction between the allusively competent “you” to whom the poem is addressed and the “you” inscribed into the poem itself. This disjunction entails the alienation of the explicit addressee from the recollected experiences of the poetic persona as narrated within the poem, an alienation which mirrors that persona’s forlorn incapacity to map onto the Ulster of his childhood the allusive pre-texts of English culture. Thus allusion throws into relief both what sender and receiver may have in common and what keeps them apart, while also offering the poet refuge in the ambiguity inherent in the twin possibilities of referential or associative readings.


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How to Cite

Sell, Jonathan P.A. 2004. “Allusion and Ambiguity in Seamus Heaney’s ‘Blackberry-Picking’”. Alicante Journal of English Studies / Revista Alicantina De Estudios Ingleses, no. 17 (November):261-82.