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  • Print publication year: 2011
  • Online publication date: September 2011

10 - Ireland



1922 - that great year of literary modernism with the publications of both The Waste Land and Ulysses - was also the year of the formation of the Irish Free State and the beginning of the Irish Civil War. This historical coincidence reveals the intertwined nature of Irish politics and anything we might call Irish modernism. From the political reasons behind Lady Augusta Gregory's and W. B. Yeats's founding of the Irish Literary Theater in 1899 - "We will show that Ireland is not the home of buffoonery" - to the explosion of fervent unionist, nationalist, revisionist, and feminist responses in the Irish press to the 1996 Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, literary events spanning twentieth-century Ireland are deeply imbricated in the political strife of a divided nation. And yet for a long time the most canonical Irish modernists - Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett - were often plucked from the Irish context, denuded (as much as possible) from purely Irish concerns, and heralded as cosmopolitan modernists free from any kind of Irish national interest or bias. As Joyce himself lamented: “condemned to express themselves in a language not their own, [the Irish] have stamped on it the mark of their own genius and compete for glory with the civilized nations. This is then called English literature.”

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