Irish Modernism

Lauren Arrington

in British and Irish Literature

ISBN: 9780199846719
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:
Irish Modernism

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Irish modernism is an emerging field in literary studies. Historically, scholars have had a critical reticence to consider Irish writers as modernists due to the widespread emphasis on the internationalism of modernism, which has been interpreted as precluding a reading of these writers in a national context. For example, the canonical position of W. B. Yeats as Ireland’s national poet was a central obstacle to considerations of stylistic developments in his middle and late poetry, especially from criticism rooted in nationalist perspectives. Inversely, Samuel Beckett’s deliberate distancing of his work from canonically national literature facilitated a critical understanding of its position in relation to modernism, whereas—until very recently—it impeded the study of the national contexts out of which Beckett’s work arose. A wave of literary criticism and historiography has begun to challenge this understanding of the way in which modernism works. The major development in this regard is the proposition that the international and national contexts are no longer viewed as necessarily mutually exclusive. Furthermore, some critics are now interrogating the ways in which aspects of the Irish Revival (conventionally viewed as a conservative, antimodernist project) were in dialogue with early modernism. Some literary critics have turned their attention to theories of modernity and modernization in 20th-century Ireland in an effort to suggest the historical causes that precipitated the rise of modernist literature. Reevaluations of the Revival period are leading to a more complex evaluation of writers of the 1920s and beyond. In the history of criticism on modernism and Ireland, James Joyce stands as the exception because, as the entries below reflect, studies of his fiction in relation to the major modernist themes of myth, the city, history, and the importance of little magazines in the development of his work have provided the framework on which to build larger theories of the relationship between a national Irish literature and the modernist enterprise. The entries here reflect individuals who are considered major authors in 20th-century literature as well as lesser-known figures, i.e., individuals whose work has been considered with regard to many modernist themes but who are not described explicitly as modernists in criticism to date. It is anticipated that with the development of Irish modernism as an area of study these writers will be subject to reappraisal, and a greater body of criticism, informed but not constrained by the idea of the nation, will emerge.

Article.  15677 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (British and Irish)

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