Empire's Wake: Postcolonial Irish Writing and the Politics of Modern Literary Form

Empire's Wake: Postcolonial Irish Writing and the Politics of Modern Literary Form

Empire's Wake: Postcolonial Irish Writing and the Politics of Modern Literary Form

Empire's Wake: Postcolonial Irish Writing and the Politics of Modern Literary Form

Synopsis

Shedding new light on the rich intellectual and political milieux shaping the divergent legacies of Joyce and Yeats, Empire's Wake traces how a distinct postcolonial modernism emerged within Irish literature in the late 1920s to contest and extend key aspects of modernist thought and aesthetic innovation at the very moment that the high modernist literary canon was consolidating its influence and prestige. By framing its explorations of postcolonial narrative form against the backdrop of distinct historical moments from the Irish Free State to the Celtic Tiger era, the book charts the different phases of 20th-century post-coloniality in ways that clarify how the comparatively early emergence of the postcolonial in Ireland illuminates the formal shifts accompanying the transition from an age of empire to one of globalization. Bringing together new perspectives on Beckett and Joyce with analyses of the critically neglected works of Sean O'Faolain, Frank McCourt, and the Blasket autobiographers, Empire's Wake challenges the notion of a singular "global modernism" and argues for the importance of critically integrating the local and the international dimensions of modernist aesthetics.

Excerpt

As we consider the complex energies animating Irish literature in the wake of empire, some initial insight into the challenges faced by the generation of Irish writers emerging in the 1920s and 1930s and the unique value of the body of literature they produced may be gleaned from a rather unlikely source. in the “Introductory Note” to the English translation of Muiris Ó Súillebháin’s Blasket Island autobiography, Twenty Years A-Growing, published in 1933, E. M. Forster remarks admiringly on the “odd document” (v) the book constitutes as a text at once framed by the legacy of the Irish Literary Revival and one representing a radical new departure from the terms of the Revival’s overarching aesthetic. Grasping for a language capable of conveying this somewhat contradictory position, Forster says of the book: “[I]t is worth saying ‘This book is unique.’… [The reader] is about to read an account of neolithic civilization from the inside. Synge and others have described it from the outside, and very sympathetically, but I know of no other instance where it has itself become vocal, and addressed modernity” (v). Gregory Castle has suggested this description by Forster indicates that the “anthropological modernism” he so insightfully elucidates in Modernism and the Celtic Revival “has become available, by 1933, to mainstream European intellectuals” (256). I want to propose, however, as part of a larger argument about modernism and postcoloniality very much indebted to Castle’s analyses, that Forster’s portrayal of Twenty Years A-Growing points us instead toward the emergence of a distinct variety of late-modernist practice which the more long-standing accounts of modernism and . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.