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Accounts of Irish romanticism have emphasised the centrality of primitivism and antiquarianism. This chapter argues that such accounts should be supplemented by considerations of the urban scene of Irish culture. With a particular emphasis on London, the chapter shows that Irish dramatists, particularly those associated with patriot thought, were keen to embrace urban culture and display their adroit capacity to write in that milieu. It pays particular attention to a 1780s generation of Irish playwrights, well connected to the burgeoning newspaper industry and to Foxite Whiggism, who built on the success of antecedents such as Oliver Goldsmith, Charles Macklin, and others. The chapter considers plays authored by John O’Keeffe, Frederick Pilon, Dennis O’Bryen, James Sheridan Knowles, and Alicia Lefanu.
This chapter aims to enrich understanding of the production and reception of imperial discourses within the popular cultural imagination of romantic-era Ireland. It explores the ways in which popular fiction of the romantic period reflects and refashions the complex dynamic between British imperialism in the East and a nascent Irish nationalism. Whereas previous research in this area has centred upon the political, historical, and theoretical implications of Ireland’s imperial status, this chapter asserts that Ireland’s imperial role was both imagined and actualised within Irish popular culture via a diverse community of writers and readers. Taking the passing of the Act of Union as its departure point, it draws on a range of lesser-known and neglected texts, including a number of Minerva Press publications, in order to illustrate how popular fiction helped to cultivate and contest the intertwined discourses of union and empire within the political hothouse of post-Union Ireland.
Between 1780 and 1830, a highly distinctive body of imaginative writing emerged in Ireland, formed by and in turn helping to mould the linguistic, political, historical, and geographical divisions characteristic of Irish life. The intense and turbulent creative effort involved bore witness to a key transition at the beginning of the nineteenth century: the emergence of modern Irish literature as a distinct cultural category. During these years, Irish literature came to consist of a recognisable body of work, which later generations could draw on, quote, anthologise, and debate. This chapter offers a new map of the making of Irish literature in the romantic period, as well as introducing the aims of the volume as a whole.
The Wild Irish Girl can be seen as ushering in the 'myth of the West' of Ireland that was to preside over Irish Romanticism. The concept of 'the sublime' was one of the most important formative influences on the rise of a new romantic sensibility in the late eighteenth century. The romance of the Enlightenment with the Celtic periphery began perhaps with Toland, for by identifying himself as a pantheist, Nature-worship and spirituality were introduced into the nebulous world of Celticism. A number of factors in the Irish national tale facilitated the introduction of cosmopolitan Europe into the romantic periphery. The gesturing towards alternative futures in evocations of the past suggests that it was not a spent force, a bygone era awaiting the embalming of romantic nostalgia. The future oriented longings of Irish Romanticism owed as much to the unresolved cultural energies of the Jacobite Gaelic Ireland.
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