Nobel Laureate Seamus Heaney to Deliver the Commencement Address at The University of Pennsylvania

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Media Contact:Ken Wildes | | 215-898-8721March 28, 2000

PHILADELPHIA --- Seamus Heaney, who received the 1995 Nobel Prize in Literature for "...works of lyrical beauty and ethical depth, which exalt everyday miracles and the living past," will deliver the commencement address at the 244th Commencement of the University of Pennsylvania on Monday, May 22, according to University President Judith Rodin. The ceremony will begin at 9:30 a.m.

A native of County Derry, Northern Ireland, Mr. Heaney is the Ralph Waldo Emerson Poet in Residence at Harvard University, and former professor of poetry at Oxford University.

Mr. Heaney has been described as one of the world great poets who has been "...an eloquent spokesperson for the importance of language and literature in contemporary culture." His contributions to the literary world are both prolific and profound and include Death of a Naturalist, which won, among other honors, both the E. C. Gregory Award and the Somerset Maugham Award, and Door into the Dark, Wintering Out, and North, which share five prestigious literary awards between them.

Most recently, Mr. Heaney's translation of the epic poem Beowulf became the highest-selling book in Great Britain, hailed as "...a masterpiece out of a masterpiece," and recognized with the Whitbread Book-of-the-Year Award.

Dr. Rodin said that the University of Pennsylvania will bestow upon Mr. Heaney an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters degree at the ceremony. "Seamus Heaney truly is a literary giant," Dr. Rodin said. "He has not only earned critical acclaim, but is easily one of the most popular poets of our time."

"Mr. Heaney is one of the world's most accomplished scholars and teachers," Dr. Rodin said, "and we are very, very pleased that he has agreed to speak to our graduates and their guests and will accept our recognition for his enormously important contributions to literature."

Mr. Heaney earned a degree in English from Queens College, Belfast, in 1961, where he began to write under the pseudonym "Incertus." In 1963, he accepted a position as lecturer in English at St. Joseph College, Belfast, and, in 1966, became a lecturer in modern English literature at Queen College.

Mr. Heaney published the award-winning Death of a Naturalist in 1966 and, a year later, Door into the Dark. In 1972, he published Wintering Out, which won the Denis Devlin Award and the Writer-in-Residence Award from the American Irish Foundation; in 1975, the critically-acclaimed North, which received both the E.M. Forster Award and the Duff Cooper Memorial Prize.

In 1975, Mr. Heaney began teaching at Carysfort College in Dublin. He remained at Carysfort until 1981, when he began his association with Harvard University as a visiting professor. In 1984, Mr. Heaney was appointed Bolyston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Harvard University, a position he held until 1996. He was professor of poetry at Oxford University from 1989 to 1994.