Daniel J. Casey and Robert E. Rhodes
With more than 44 million Americans--nearly one in six in the population-- tracing their ancestry to Ireland, it stands to reason that the Irish should be well represented in American letters. Irish Americans have, in fact, produced major writers in all of the literary genres over the last century, though, with a few exceptions, they have in the last generation melded into the great American amalgam. Irish-American literature has, since the 1970s, fused with mainstream American literature.
This chapter begins with a consideration of the Irish immigrant experience as a prototype for the experiences of other established immigrant populations and posits "loss of Irishness" as a trade-off in the assimilation process. The second part studies the nineteenth- and twentieth-century literary development through 1945, as background to the new immigrant literature. The final sections--the body of the chapter--concentrate on Irish-American contributions to post-World War II and contemporary literature.
As a bibliographical survey, this chapter identifies recurring themes in the literature and moves chronologically, generation by generation, highlighting only the major and representative writers and their works. For reasons of space and emphasis, it neglects scores of competent writers in all genres who have contributed, some of them significantly, to the Irish-American cultural legacy.
The bibliography is also selective--150 citations covering the primary and secondary sources. The authors have published a fuller 170-page bibliography as part of Irish-American Fiction: Essays in Criticism ( 1979) and refer the reader