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Irish Literature in English - Essay Example

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Irish Literature in English

To what extent those pendulum movements characterize Irish literary identity
With the rise of nationalism in Europe, the Irish nation sought to re-discover its own distinct culture, which had progressively been erased by the English hegemony over the Irish territory. While successive British governments had ignored Irish culture and language, the creation of the Irish Free State in 1922 allowed new possibilities for the nation to re-discover its forgotten cultural roots. To claim itself a nation-state, Ireland needed to find itself a true national identity (see B. Anderson 2000). As a consequence, national heroes (like Parnell), icons, symbols and traditions embodying national ideals, and the promotion of Irish past history and language, became new standards for self-definition of the nation. Literature obviously had to play an important role in the promotion of this new Irish national identity.
The Irish Literary Revival, founded by William Butler Yeats, sought into Irish myths and folklore to discover or re-invent the true roots of Irish identity and get rid of colonialist stereotypes. This created a new Irish literature, developing along nostalgic visions of old rural Ireland (before industrialization) and adapting oral folklore to written narration. However, most poems and plays by Yeats were written in English, revealing a true miscegenation of cultures within the texts. Whereas Yeats' works reworked Irish myths and folklore, the strong influence of Percy Bysshe Shelley unveiled an English "shadow" on his texts. Yeats and the movement that he founded showed a strong will to take distance from the English culture, yet this defiance only proved that the English culture served as a landmark for the creation of an Irish national culture and literary tradition, hence showing that the English influence could never be totally erased.

Minority voices versus Irish national literary conventions.
Irish nationalists' striving for the recognition of Irish traditions indirectly conveyed a political message (to claim independence), so as to invent an intrinsic antithesis, the concept of "un-Irishness". Ignoring the new Irish national conventions, led by the Celtic Revival, came to be considered as an act of defiance against national standards, and authors who chose to criticize the national narrow conception of "Irishness" indirectly accepted (or sought) an ideological exile from the mainstream.
Irish authors who showed a tough scepticism vis--vis new national standards, like James Joyce or Samuel Beckett, were in fact adopting an escape distance from the turbulent issues during the modern era. Writers chose a more peaceful way to deal with the Irish identity, through writing. They considered that re-inventing national traditions had paradoxically erased the liberty that Irish people were so much seeking on their ...Show more

Summary

The very title of this paper, "Irish literature in English", reveals the paradox that is at the core of Irish (literary) identity, i.e. the merging of Irish and English cultures in the Irish nation, mediated through language. The rise of nationalism in Ireland, amplified by the Irish Literary Revival, clearly showed the attachment of Irish people to their own Gaelic language, as a symbol of their distinct national identity, and their will to create an Irish nation…
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