Irish Poetry of the 1930's

Irish Poetry of the 1930's

Irish Poetry of the 1930's

Irish Poetry of the 1930's

Synopsis

The 1930s have never really been considered an epoch within Irish literature, even though the Thirties form one of the most dominant and fascinating contexts in modern British literature. This book argues that during this time Irish poets faced up to political pressures and aesthetic dilemmas which frequently overlapped with those associated with "The Auden Generation." In so doing, it offers a provocative intercession into Irish history. But more than this, it offers powerful arguments about the way poetry in general is interpreted and understood.

In this way, Gillis seeks to redefine our understanding of a frequently neglected period and to challenge received notions of both Irish literature and poetic modernism. Irish Poetry of the 1930sgives detailed and vital readings of the major Irish poets of the decade, including original and exciting analyses of Samuel Beckett, Patrick Kavanagh, Louis MacNeice, and W. B. Yeats.

Excerpt

In Irish literary history, the 1930s are overshadowed, and almost eclipsed, by the previous three decades. After the creative booms and imaginative highs that helped drive Ireland towards Independence, the 1930s seem an almighty comedown. Indeed, the decade appears to inaugurate a form of cultural meltdown, as Irish society is increasingly infected by isolation, conservatism, censorship, stagnation, and sanctimoniousness. Yet this is a retrospective image of the time, and it muzzles the range and achievement of Irish writers wielding manuscripts. The best known of these included Samuel Beckett, Elizabeth Bowen, Austin Clarke, Brian Coffey, Denis Devlin, John Lyle Donaghy, Padraic Fallon, James Joyce, Patrick Kavanagh, Molly Keane, Louis MacNeice, Flann O’Brien, Kate O’Brien, Sean O’Casey, Frank O’Connor, Sean O’Faoláin, Liam O’Flaherty, Blanaid Salkeld, George Bernard Shaw, and W. B. Yeats. And, while many of these writers have received attention (the bibliographies on Beckett, Joyce, and Yeats are implacable behemoths), they are mostly kept separate, or else are discussed in terms that occlude an informed sense of the Irish 1930s. But, taken collectively, their work presents a kaleidoscope of style and substance that creates an alternative view of the time, indicating that Irish culture was, in fact, a vivid and mutating arena.

The stereotype of the Irish 1930s, as insular and dour, is a strange inversion of the contemporary British scene. British poetry of the 1930s is highly regarded for its cornucopia of aesthetic achievement. More particularly, it is renowned and studied for its explicit response to global crises; for its examination of the role that art plays in history; for its interrogation of the ethics of art; and for its fraught mediations of class conflict, communism, mass culture, capitalist reification, and bourgeois disaffection. This, of course, is what gives the term the ‘Thirties’ its prominent meaning. Confronted with both brutal and subtle forms of social fracture and political autocracy, and with a reality permeated by . . .

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