Jonathan Allison

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  • Professor of English
  • Department Chair
  • English
  • Social Theory
1203 Patterson Office Tower
(859) 257-6961
Other Affiliations:
  • W.B. Yeats International Summer School
  • University Press of Kentucky
  • University of Kentucky Libraries National Advisory Board
Research Interests:
Office Hours Fall 2018: MW 2-3:30
  • BA, PGCE Queen's University, Belfast
  • MA, PhD University of Michigan, Ann Arbor

Teaching Fall 2018

  • Honors Seminar: Poetry of Seamus Heaney (English 495)

Areas of Specialty:

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

Jonathan Allison specializes in modern British and Irish literature. His main research interests are in modern poetry, especially W.B. Yeats and the Revival, the Auden generation (including Louis MacNeice), and Irish writing since 1939.  He teaches courses on twentieth-century writing, and the Survey of British Literature, 1750-2000.

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. You can listen to a review of Letters of Louis MacNeice here: Off the Shelf (April 2011.) In 2014, he gave the BBC Louis MacNeice Memorial Lecture at Queen's University, Belfast and in 2015 he was a plenary speaker at the Conference on Literature and the Supernatural at University College London. He has edited several essay collections, including Yeats's Political Identities (University of Michigan Press, 1996), Poetry and Contemporary Culture, with Andrew Roberts (Edinburgh University Press, 2002) and Bound for the 1890s (Rivendale Press, 2007). His essays have appeared in many journals, including Colby Quarterly, Critical Survey, Sewanee Review, South Atlantic Review,Yearbook of English Studies, Yeats: An Annual of Critical and Textual Studies. He previously taught at University College London and the University of Michigan and has worked as an editorial assistant with the London Review of Books. He has been 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 the documentary film The Passions of William Butler Yeats (Adventures of Young Indiana Jones), produced by Lucasfilm.

He has served as Interim Director of the University Press of Kentucky (2015-2016), and is currently Chair of the Editorial Board of the University Press, and a member of the University of Kentucky Libraries National Advisory Board. He was general editor of the series Irish Literature, History and Culture. In 2017 he hosted the Southern regional meeting of the American Conference for Irish Studies at the University of Kentucky.

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 and chapters

  • "The MacNeice Archives." The Contemporary Poetry Archive, eds. Linda Anderson and Ahren Warner. Edinburgh University Press, 2018 [forthcoming]
  • "Heaney and Politics." Seamus Heaney in Context, ed. Geraldine Higgins. Cambridge University Press, 2018 [forthcoming]
  • "Strange Meeting: Ghosts in Modern Poetry."  From the Supernatural to the Uncanny, eds. Stephen M. Hart, Zoltan Biedermann. Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2017, 120-33
  • “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.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. David Holdeman and Ben Levitas, Cambridge University Press, 2010, 98-108
  • "'The Old Moon-Phaser:' Auden, MacNeice and Yeats." South Carolina Review (fall) 2010: 138-50.
  • "'Playing around with quotations and stuff:' Ciaran Carson's Snow." Carson et Cetera: A Festschrift for Ciaran Carson, eds. Ian Sansom, Richard Irvine. Belfast: QUB, 2008, 109-13
  • "W. B.Yeats and Politics.” Cambridge Companion to W.B.Yeats,  eds. John Kelly and Marjorie Howes. Cambridge University Press, 2006, 185-205
  • "War, Passive Suffering and the Poet." Sewanee Review CXIV (spring) 2006: 207-19.
  • "The Reception of W.B.Yeats in Ireland since 1950." Reception of Yeats in Europe. Ed. K.P.S.Jochum. London, New York: Continuum Press, 2006, 231-54.
  • "Magical Nationalism, Lyric Poetry and the Marvellous.” A Companion to Magical Realism. Eds. Stephen M. Hart, Wen-chin Ouyang. London: Tamesis (Boydell & Brewer), 2005, 228-36.
  • "'Friendship's Garland:' the Manuscripts of Seamus Heaney's 'Fosterage.'" Yearbook of English Studies. London: MHRA, 2005, 58-71.
  • "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. Eds. J. Allison & A. Roberts. Edinburgh University Press, 2002, 209-26.
  • "Seamus Heaney and the Romantic Image." Sewanee Review CVI (spring) 1998: 184-201.
  • "W.B.Yeats and Shakespearean Character." Shakespeare and Ireland, eds. Mark Thornton Burnett and Ramona Wray. London: Macmillan, 1997, 114-135
  • "Beyond Gentility: A Note on Seamus Heaney and American Poetry." Critical Survey, Oxford University Press, (spring) 1996: 178-85.
  • "The Rose, the Reader, and Yeats's Intentions." Yeats: An Annual of Critical and Textual Studies.  University of Michigan Press, 1995: 3-10.

Doctoral dissertations supervised

  • Hannah Ruehl, Understanding the Gray: Ageing Women in Victorian Fiction and Culture (2018)
  • Leah Hutchison Toth, Resonant Texts: Sound Revolutions in Technology and Modern Literature (2016)
  • George Phillips, Seeing Subjects: Recognition, Identity, and Visual Cultures in Literary Modernism (2011)
  • Charles Hampton Poff, Truths Universally Acknowledged: The Problem of Romantic Education (2007)
  • Elizabeth Tashery Shannon, Tree and Gyre: Yeats's Poems, Occultism, and A Vision (2005)
  • Sarah Jane Stafford, George Eliot’s Rewriting of Sir Walter Scott (2003)

Selected courses taught

  • Seminar on W.B.Yeats (740)
  • Poetry and Modernism, 1900-1945 (740)
  • Contemporary British Poetry and Culture Since 1950 (642)
  • Modernism and Ireland (642)
  • Bibliography and Textual Studies (600)
  • Honors Seminar: Seamus Heaney (495)
  • Yeats and Joyce (481G)
  • British Writers of the Thirties (481G)
  • Modern British Poetry (481G)
  • Scottish Literature (481G)
  • Irish Literature (481G)
  • British Fiction Since 1950 (481G)
  • The Swinging Sixties (440G)
  • Modernism (349)
  • Elegy and Love Poetry (345)
  • Ulysses in Context (330)
  • Nineteen Eighty-Four in Context (330)
  • Survey of English Literature II (242)
  • The Thistle and Shamrock: Scotland, Ireland and America (230)

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

  • All the Olympians: Modern Irish Manuscripts and Editions (opened by Ronald Schuchard), spring 2017
  • Four Nobel Laureates: Yeats, Shaw, Beckett, Heaney (opened by Seamus Heaney), spring 2006
  • Scottish Books and Manuscripts: Exhibition (opened by Ian Duncan and Patrick Scott), fall 2005
  • The 1890s: Symposium and Exhibition (opened by James G. Nelson), fall 2004
  • Irish Literature 1700-1945: An Exhibition (opened by Helen Vendler), spring 2003

On Letters of Louis MacNeice

"Jonathan Allison’s splendid and masterfully edited Letters of Louis MacNeice….”--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.”--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.”--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.”--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."--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’.”--Irish Times

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