Seamus Deane

Profile of the writer, teacher and founder of Field Day Theatre Company

Seamus Francis Deane was born in Derry in 1940 and was educated there at St Columb’s College. He went on to study at Queen’s University Belfast and Cambridge. He has taught at Oregon, Berkeley, University College Dublin, Indiana University, Notre Dame and is currently Keough Professor of Irish Studies at the Keough Institute.

Deane is a member of the Royal Irish Academy and was a founding director of the Derry based Field Day Theatre Company (1980 -1992).

The writer’s body of work includes articles for La Revue de Litérature comparée; Modern Language Review, and Journal of the History of Ideas; reviews in Times Literary Supplement and New York Review of Books, and London Review of Books. Deane was co-editor of Atlantis (1969-73).

His several books include A Short History of Irish Literature, Celtic Revivals: Essays in Modern Irish Literature, The French Revolution and Enlightenment in England and Strange Country: Modernity and Nationhood in Irish Writing since 1790. The writer also edited the monumental Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing in three volumes. Deane’s only novel,  Reading in the Dark was published in 1996.

The Derry man delivered a keynote lecture on Famine Politics at the Derry Famine Commemoration and in 1996 chaired the symposium, Secrets and Lies 25 Years On, which commemorated Bloody Sunday and called for a re-enquiry.

In 1998 he scripted a commemorative documentary on 1798, with Kevin Whelan, Luke Gibbon and others. His latest work is The Wizard, a gothic novel.

'When, in mid-August, to commemorate the Feast of the Assumption of Our Lady into heaven, the bonfires were lit at the foot of the sloping, parallel streets, against the stone wall above the Park, the night sky reddened around the rising furls of black tyre smoke that exploded every so often in high soprano bursts of paraffined flame. Their acrid odour would gradually give way to the more fragrant aroma of soft burning trees that drifted across the little houses in their serried slopes, gravelled streets falling down from the asphalted Lone Moor Road that for us marked the limit between the city proper and the beginning of the countryside that spread out into Donegal four miles away.'
(from Reading in the Dark, © Seamus Deane 1996.)

This autobiographical novel was excerpted as 'Vanishings' in Irish Review (1988) and serialised in Granta (1991) before being published. According to Deane the novel was ’dragged out of him’ over several years by Bill Buford, the former editor of Granta. When it eventually came out in 1996,  Reading in the Dark was nominated for the Booker Prize. The work has now been translated into more than 20 languages.