Born in Derry in 1940, he was educated at Queen's University and Cambridge University. He was professor of Modern English and American Literature in University College Dublin, and has lectured extensively across Europe and the United States. His collections of poetry include Gradual Wars (1972), which won the AE Memorial Prize, Rumours (1977), History Lessons (1983) and Selected Poems (1988). He has written numerous works of criticism on Irish literature, and a history of the French Enlightenment. His first novel, Reading in the Dark, was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1996 and won the Irish Times Literary Award in 1997. He was a director of the Field Day theatre company, and is general editor of the Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing.
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