Past, Secrecy and Absence in Eavan Boland’s The Historians


  • Pilar Villar-Argáiz University of Granada



Past, Present, Secrets, Eavan Boland, The Historians


This paper draws on Eavan Boland’s final volume of poetry, The Historians, published posthumously in October 2020. By examining in detail some poems taken from her first sequence in the collection, I will investigate how Boland returns to previous concerns in her work, particularly the tensions between revelation and concealment, veiling and unveiling, a transparent history and an obscure past. As I intend to show, when imagining the past, Boland incorporates constant ruptures and interruptions, revealing that there are details in her act of poetic reimagination which resist being incorporated into a lineal, continuous narrative. In order to study this aspect, I will rely on prominent scholars such as Abbott (2013), Brooks (1992), Calinescu (1994), and Attridge (2021), who have examined the role that mystery, secrets and the unknowable play in the construction of narrative sequences. In particular, I will examine various formal techniques employed by Boland: 1) the deliberate use of plain, non-ornamental diction, and short verse lines, highlighting even further the presence of absence; 2) her disruption of lineal narratives by the widening and narrowing of poetic perspective and scope, and 3) her delayed disclosure of ‘secrets’. By means of all these formal, stylistic devices, Boland shows that secrecy is an intrinsic quality of the past.

Author Biography

Pilar Villar-Argáiz, University of Granada

Pilar Villar-Argáiz is a senior lecturer of British and Irish Literatures in the Department of English at the University of Granada and the General Editor of the major series “Studies in Irish Literature, Cinema and Culture” in Edward Everett Root Publishers. She is the author of the books Eavan Boland’s Evolution as an Irish Woman Poet: An Outsider within an Outsider’s Culture (Edwin Mellen Press, 2007) and The Poetry of Eavan Boland: A Postcolonial Reading (Academica Press, 2008). She has published extensively on contemporary Irish poetry and fiction, in relation to questions of gender, race, migration and interculturality. Her edited collections include Literary Visions of Multicultural Ireland: The Immigrant in Contemporary Irish Literature (Manchester University Press, 2014), Irishness on the Margins: Minority and Dissident Identities (Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), Secrecy and Community in 21st-Century Fiction (Bloomsbury, 2021), the special issue of Irish Studies Review (entitled “Irish Multiculturalism in Crisis”, co-edited with Jason King, 2015), and the special issue of Nordic Irish Studies (entitled “Discourses of Inclusion and Exclusion: Artistic Renderings of Marginal Identities in Ireland”, 2016). Villar-Argáiz is currently the Chairperson of AEDEI (the Spanish Association for Irish Studies) and Member of the Executive Board of EFACIS (the European Federation of Associations and Centres of Irish Studies).  


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How to Cite

Villar-Argáiz, P. (2021). Past, Secrecy and Absence in Eavan Boland’s The Historians. ABEI Journal, 23(2), 69-87.