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Chapter 19 - Curriculum to Canon: Irish Writing and Education

from Part V - Retrospective Frameworks: Criticism in Transition

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 February 2020

Eve Patten
Affiliation:
Trinity College Dublin
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Summary

After free secondary-school education became available for all in Ireland, questions as to the outline and content of a literary curriculum at secondary level became relevant to our understanding of how a contemporary generation of Irish writers responded to, and re-engaged with, their own educational background. This chapter initially offers a brief overview of Irish government policy in education before 1940, before discussing the key curricular developments between 1940 and 1980, bringing to light the political and cultural negotiations that determined how English literature was taught in Irish second-level schools. When free second-level education was introduced in Northern Ireland (1947) and in the Republic of Ireland (1967), it amounted to a widening of social access to education that was of huge personal significance to many Irish writers. The second half of this chapter explores the shaping power of the English literature programme for the Irish literary imagination through a study of how a selection of Irish writers who were students of English during these decades depicted their educational formation; this section focusses on writers such as John McGahern, Seamus Deane, and Paula Meehan, amongst others.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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