After Yeats and Joyce: Reading Modern Irish Literature

By Neil Corcoran | Go to book overview
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Preface

This is a book about Irish literature after Yeats and Joyce and it is, therefore, a book about texts which have been the subject of much critical contention. The contention begins with the phrase 'Irish literature' itself which, to some, should still be reserved for works in the Irish language. These continue to be written in modern Ireland, and they inherit a very rich history with particular high points in the Middle Ages and the eighteenth century. For a long time the phrase 'Anglo-Irish literature' was usedand still is by some critics, literary historians, and literary syllabuses -- as a way of distinguishing from, and perhaps also tactfully deferring to literature in the Irish language. However, this term has political and ethnographical connotations which, in my opinion, make it inappropriate to a great deal of the literature which I actually discuss in this book. Some critics have tried different ways of overcoming or ducking the terminological difficulty. The use of the term 'Irish writing' is common, and this is usually also intended to suggest the way in which the category of literature is interwoven with other categories of writing, including the political and the critical-theoretical; but the frequency of its use has by now made it seem a little jaded. Seamus Deane, in his Short History of Irish Literature, however, takes what Bruce Stewart has described as a 'benchmark' taxonomic initiative, employing the term 'Irish literature' to refer now to Irish literature in English. I follow suit in that, taking heart from Stewart's unillusioned acerbity: 'There is a time to call a halt to all of that.' 1

I do so, however, in full knowledge of what has sometimes been involved here, which Stewart categorizes as 'a world of often fierce antagonisms invoking the pride and anxieties of a tragically suppressed (yet partially resuscitated) native language, and the hauteur and unease of a forcibly imposed yet fully assimilated one, each wearing the uncompromising aspect of a manichean hero as they face up to each other in fatal dispute

-v-

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