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  • Print publication year: 2010
  • Online publication date: June 2012

1 - The Literary Revival: historical perspectives

Summary

At the sixth Annual Conference of the Canadian Association for Irish Studies held in Montreal in March, 1973, Seamus Deane delivered a lecture entitled ‘The Literary Myths of the Revival: A Case for Their Abandonment’. This was less than three years after the founding meeting of the International Association for the Study of Anglo-Irish literature, now IASIL, in the summer of 1970 at Trinity College, Dublin. At that Dublin meeting, the Northern Troubles, in their earliest phase, scarcely registered. No one seemed surprised. By 1973 with Bloody Sunday in Derry, Bloody Friday in Belfast, with internment poisoning the communities in Northern Ireland and the Provisonal IRA in the midst of a bombing campaign, it would by contrast have seemed surprising if a meeting dedicated to Irish Studies had not heard something bearing on the developing Irish imbroglio. Deane, with severe passion (I remember the tone precisely in the grand ‘colonial’ chamber in McGill University's Great Hall, in a city that knew its own kind of ethnic and linguistic div­isions), spoke of ‘our present delapidated situation’ that had ‘borne in upon us more fiercely than ever the fact that discontinuity, the discontinuity that is ineluctably an inheritance of a colonial history, is more truly the signal feature of our condition’. Deane's lecture, which was published in 1977, set literary historians the task of unmasking what he thought were the disabling Yeatsian myths of the Irish literary revival, which had for too long enjoyed the status of literal truth.

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