Jonathan Allison

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BA, PGCE Queen's University, Belfast
MA, PhD University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Jonathan Allison teaches in the English Department at the University of Kentucky where he specializes in British and Irish Literature of the twentieth century. He is chiefly interested in modernism and modern writing, and his main research area is British and Irish poetry, especially Yeats and the Literary Revival, Louis MacNeice and the Auden generation, and Seamus Heaney and contemporary poetry. He regularly teaches courses on modern poetry, the modern novel (especially Joyce, Beckett and Orwell), and the British Literature Survey. Other interests include modern drama, film, autobiography, social history and cultural studies.

His annotated edition of Letters of Louis MacNeice (Faber and Faber, 2010) was named a 2010 'Book of the Year' by the Times Literary Supplement. You can listen to a review of Letters of Louis MacNeice on RTE Radio, here: Off the Shelf (April 2011.) In 2014, Allison gave the BBC Louis MacNeice Memorial Lecture at Queen's University, Belfast.

He has edited a volume of essays on Yeats, Yeats's Political Identities (University of Michigan Press, 1996), and several other collections including Poetry and Contemporary Culture, with Andrew Roberts (Edinburgh University Press, 2002) and Bound for the 1890s (Rivendale Press, 2007). His essays have appeared in Critical Survey, Eire-Ireland, Sewanee Review, South Atlantic Review, Yearbook of English Studies, Yeats: An Annual of Critical and Textual Studies, and other journals and collections. He worked as an editorial assistant with the London Review of Books and has twice been a Fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh.  A former Director of the W. B. Yeats International Summer School, Sligo, he contributed to and appeared in the documentary film The Passions of William Butler Yeats (2007), produced by Lucasfilm. He is Chair of the Editorial Board of the University Press of Kentucky and was formerly general editor of the book series Irish Literature, History and Culture.

Areas of Specialty:

  • Twentieth-Century British and Irish Literature
  • Modernism
  • Poetry
  • Irish and Scottish Studies
  • Textual Studies
Selected Publications: 


  • (Editor) Letters of Louis MacNeice. London: Faber and Faber, 2010. xlvii + 768pp.
  • (Editor) Bound for the 1890s: Essays on Writing and Publishing in Honor of James G. Nelson. Foreword by G. Thomas Tanselle. High Wycombe: Rivendale Press, 2006. 204pp
  • (Co-editor with Andrew Roberts) Poetry and Contemporary Culture: the Question of Value. Edinburgh University Press and Columbia University Press, 2002. xi + 250pp
  • (Editor) Poetry for Young People: William Butler Yeats. Illustrations by Glenn Harrington. New York: Sterling, 2002. 50pp
  • (Editor) Yeats's Political Identities. University of Michigan Press, 1996. viii + 352pp
  • Patrick Kavanagh: A Reference Guide. Foreword by Maurice Harmon. New York: G. K. Hall, 1996. xxviii + 220pp

Selected Articles

Recent Courses

Poetry and Modernism, 1900-1945 (740); Contemporary British Poetry and Culture Since 1950 (642), Modernism and Ireland (642), Bibliography and Textual Studies (600); Yeats and Joyce (481G); British Writers of the Thirties (481G); Modern British Poetry (481G); Scottish Literature (481G); British Fiction Since 1950 (481G); Modernism (349); Ulysses in Context (330); Nineteen Eighty-Four in Context (330); Survey of English Literature II (242)

Exhibitions at Special Collections, University of Kentucky Libraries (curated by Jonathan Allison and James Birchfield)

On Letters of Louis MacNeice

"Jonathan Allison’s splendid and masterfully edited Letters of Louis MacNeice….”-David Wheatley, Times Literary Supplement

"A meticulous and penetrating edition”-Books of the Year 2010, Times Literary Supplement

“This marvelous edition of his letters reminds us of MacNeice’s originality and independence from his schooldays onwards.”-Roy Foster, Financial Times

“Edited with great helpfulness as well as careful scholarship … it puts a lot of flesh on the bones of relationships that are visible in the poems.”-Andrew Motion, The Guardian

“These letters, meticulously edited and annotated by Jonathan Allison, add up to an invaluable resource for MacNeice scholars and an engrossing, if intermittent, personal and political commentary.”-Patricia Craig, The Independent

"I have always loved MacNeice and secretly want to spend all my time teaching him to students. This is an amazing volume, in which the author speaks in all his humane complexity." -Times Higher Education Supplement

"It would be difficult to overstate [MacNeice's] current significance. In the last 20 years there has been a burgeoning of academic attention...culminating in the appearance of his letters, weighing in at a substantial 768 pages."-Nick Laird, London Review of Books

“This selection (skillfully compiled and scrupulously edited by Jonathan Allison) is an indispensable guide to the preoccupations and passions, travels and tribulations of a greatly gifted writer, a man of wide and lively interests who listed Tintoretto, tennis, large dogs, rugby and Constantinople among his ‘likes’.”-Dennis O'Driscoll, Irish Times

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