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8 - Region, realism and reaction, 1922-1972

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 January 2007

John Wilson Foster
Affiliation:
University of British Columbia, Vancouver
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Summary

Irish regionalism

'Regionalism' is a topical theme, kept before us by the regional policies of the European Union, of which Ireland is a member, and by recent discussions of regionalism in connection with the contemporary phenomenon of economic globalisation. But the concept of 'region' or 'regionalism' in Irish fiction is not straightforward, either before or after the establishment of Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State in 1920-2. Within the tradition of regional fiction in English, Maria Edgeworth made a pioneering contribution with her Irish novel Castle Rackrent (1800), and this was generously acknowledged by Sir Walter Scott, who helped to pass on the lessons to subsequent regional writers. But Edgeworth's example did not of itself produce strongly localised Irish fiction. The main market for Irish fiction has always been outside Ireland, and from the outset this rather discouraged a regional or sub-regional specificity which would not be appreciated at a distance. In consequence, the whole of Ireland, or at least rural Ireland, tended to be identified as a single non-metropolitan 'region', the literary province of nineteenth- and indeed twentieth-century Irish writers in English, just as a largely undifferentiated Scotland tended to be seen as a single region, the province of Scottish writers.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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