Cyclical Violence

Sarah Cole

in At the Violet Hour

Published in print November 2012 | ISBN: 9780195389616
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979226 | DOI:

Series: Modernist Literature and Culture

Cyclical Violence

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This chapter takes as its scope the substantial canon of Irish literature in the first decades of the twentieth century that engaged intimately with violence. It argues that the expression of violence can be understood according to four categories, each of which the chapter develops with respect to a host of writers, whose styles and political positions are widely divergent. The categories are not entirely parallel in structure, but together provide a capacious picture of the language of violence in the period: keening (or ritual lamentation), generative violence (the mode of the Rising), reprisal (the dark doppelganger of generativity), and allegory (in which the nation or body is likened to a tree or building). In tracing these four modes, the chapter invites a loosening of the ordinary political binaries that characterize criticism of this period. Prominent figures include, for keening, Synge and O'Casey; for generative violence, Synge, Yeats, Pearse, and other leaders of the Rising such as Plunkett and MacDonough; for reprisal, Mitchel, Yeats, Synge, and O'Casey; and for allegory, Yeats. Ultimately, the chapter charts an entirely new scheme for reading the violence canon in this period, attuned to the historical shifts eventuated by uprising, war and the institution of the nation state.

Keywords: Irish Rising of 1916; generative violence; keening; Civil War; reprisal; allegory; William Butler Yeats; Easter 1916; J. M. Synge; Padraig Pearse; Sean O’Casey

Chapter.  29912 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards)

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