Jonathan Allison

jalliso's picture
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 specialises in British and Irish Literature of the twentieth century.  Particular interests include modern poetry in relation to modernism and nationalism. His recent work has focussed on the work of W.B.Yeats and the Irish Literary Revival; Louis MacNeice and the Auden generation; Seamus Heaney and contemporary poetry. Other interests include modern fiction, autobiography, and textual studies. Allison's annotated edition of Letters of Louis MacNeice (Faber and Faber, 2010) was named a 2010 'Book of the Year' by the Times Literary Supplement. He has edited several essay collections, including Yeats's Political Identities (U of Michigan P, 1996), Poetry and Contemporary Culture, with Andrew Roberts (Edinburgh UP, 2002) and Bound for the 1890s (Rivendale P, 2007). He has worked as an editorial assistant with the London Review of Books and has twice been a visiting fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, Scotland.  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 currently 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.

You can listen to a review of Letters of Louis MacNeice on RTE Radio, here: Off the Shelf (April 2011)

Areas of Specialty:

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

Doctoral advisor for following students:

  • George M. Phillips, PhD, University of Kentucky, 2011: Seeing Subjects: Recognition, Identity and Visual Cultures in Literary Modernism
  • Charles H. Poff, Jr., PhD, University of Kentucky, 2007: Truths Universally Acknowledged: The Problem of Romantic Education
  • Elizabeth T. Shannon, PhD, University of Kentucky, 2005: Tree and Gyre: Yeats's Poems, Occultism, and A Vision
  • Sarah Jane Stafford, PhD, University of Kentucky, 2003: George Eliot's rewriting of Sir Walter Scott
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

  • “Memory and Starlight in Late MacNeice.” Oxford Handbook of Modern Irish Poetry, eds. Fran Brearton and Alan Gillis. Oxford University Press, 2012, 394-407.
  • “Pure Form and Impure Poetry” in Incorrigibly Plural: Louis MacNeice and his Legacy, eds. Edna Longley and Fran Brearton. Carcanet Press, 2012, 42-54.
  • "Galway, Coole and Ballylee." W.B. Yeats in Context (eds. D. Holdeman and B. Levitas), Cambridge University Press, 2010, 98-108
  • "'The Old Moon-Phaser': Yeats, Auden, MacNeice." South Carolina Review (Fall) 2010, 138-150
  • "'Playing around with quotations and stuff:' Ciaran Carson's Snow." Carson et Cetera: A Festschrift for Ciaran Carson (eds. Ian Sansom and Richard Irvine). Queen's University, Belfast, 2008, 109-13
  • "Constructing the Early Yeats: Modernist Revisions of Poems (1895)." Bound for the 1890s: Essays on Writing and Publishing in Honor of James G. Nelson. High Wycombe: Rivendale Press, 2007, 173-89
  • "War, Passive Suffering and the Poet." Sewanee Review (Spring) 2006, 207-19
  • "The Reception of W.B. Yeats in Ireland, since 1950." The Reception of W.B.Yeats in Europe (ed. K.P.S.Jochum). London: Continuum Books, 2006, 231-54
  • "W.B.Yeats and Politics." Cambridge Companion to W.B.Yeats. (Eds. John Kelly and Marjorie Howes). Cambridge University Press, 2006, 185-205
  • "Magical Nationalism, Lyric Poetry and the Marvelous: W.B. Yeats and Seamus Heaney." Companion to Magical Realism. (Eds. Stephen Hart, Wen-Chin Ouyang). London: Boydell Brewer, 2005, 228-36
  • "'Friendship's Garland': the Manuscripts of Seamus Heaney's 'Fosterage.'" Yearbook of English Studies (London), 2005, 58-71. Reprinted in Poetry Criticism, Detroit: Gale, 2010
  • "Patrick Kavanagh and Anti-Pastoral." Cambridge Companion to Contemporary Irish Poetry. (Ed. Matthew Campbell). Cambridge University Press, 2003, 42-58
  • "Contemporary Poetry and the Great War." Poetry and Contemporary Culture: the Question of Value. (Eds. J. Allison, A. Roberts). Edinburgh University Press, 2002, 209-26
  • "Seamus Heaney and the Romantic Image." Sewanee Review (Spring) 1998, 184-201. Reprinted (1) Infocus: Linking People and Education, State Library of NSW, Australia, fall 2000; (2) Contemporary Literary Criticism, vol. 225, Thompson Gale, 2007, 110-116
  • "W.B.Yeats and Shakespearean Character." In Shakespeare and Ireland.  Eds. Mark Thornton Burnett, Ramona Wray. London: Macmillan, 1997, 114-135.
  • "Acts of Union: Seamus Heaney's Tropes of Sex and Marriage, 1969-75."  Eire-Ireland (winter) 1992, 106-21. (Extracts repr. Poetry of Seamus Heaney, ed. Elmer Andrews. NY: Columbia UP, 2000)
  • "The Attack on Yeats."  South Atlantic Review, vol. 55, 4, November 1990, 61-73. Reprinted in W.B.Yeats: Critical Assessments, ed. David Pierce, vol.4. Sussex, 2000

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

Four Nobel Laureates: Yeats, Shaw, Beckett, Heaney (opened by Seamus Heaney), Spring 2006; Scottish Books and Manuscripts: An Exhibition and Symposium (opened by Ian Duncan and Patrick Scott), Fall 2005; An 1890s Symposium and Exhibition (opened by James Nelson), Fall 2004; Irish Literature 1700-1945: An Exhibition (opened by Helen Vendler), Spring 2003. Curated by Jonathan Allison and James Birchfield (Curator of Rare Books, Special Collections)

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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