“Seamus Heaney’s Five Fables” iPad app

Research Policy Office
Friday 23 May 2014

Illustration of man, fox and wolfDr Chris Jones and Dr Ian Johnson, from the School of English, have collaborated with Flickerpix Animations and Touch Press on their exciting new multimedia iPad app of Seamus Heaney’s translation of Five Fables by the medieval Scottish poet Robert Henryson. Henryson was a master of the craft of verse, who probably lived and worked in Fife in the 15th century. No longer widely read, Henryson deserves proper recognition as a giant of medieval European literature, and towards the end of his life Seamus Heaney translated several of Henryson’s poems into modern English, with a view to renewing interest in this neglected genius. This app, and its accompanying animated versions of Heaney’s translations of Henryson’s verse adaptions of Aesop’s fables, which Heaney was working on at the time of his death in August 2013, will continue to find new audiences both for Heaney and for Henryson.

A wolf and dog in the woods illustrationIan Johnson, an expert in late medieval literature, was recorded reading aloud the original medieval Scots of Henryson in original pronunciation. Users of the app can switch between hearing Johnson’s interpretation of Henryson, and Billy Connolly’s performance of Heaney’s modern versions. Chris Jones, who has carried out extensive research into the use that modern poets have made of medieval literary sources (e.g. Strange Likeness: The Use of Old English in Twentieth-Century Poetry. Oxford University Press, 2006), was commissioned to write a detailed set of interpretative notes set of interpretative notes to both Henryson’s original text and Heaney’s adaptations.

An illustration of a mouse holding a stickSeamus Heaney’s Five Fables 

An introduction to the fable, The Two Mice, which was shown on BBC Two Northern Ireland in March and tells the story of a country mouse invited by her sister to taste the delights of the town but finds, to her cost, it is not all it is made out to be.

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