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This chapter examines the relationship between Irish Anglophone literature and Anglophone literatures elsewhere in the British Isles in the era of Union. The prominence of Irish literature in the creation of cultural memory which presented complex and remote events in simple terms – particularly accessible and portable to the diaspora, who aligned the language of deprivation and struggle with their own experiences of famine and poverty – is understood as a central part of this process. In historicising Irish literature in English in the romantic era, this chapter challenges the overlaid interpretations of Irish nationalist cultural memory in querying if it makes sense to speak of a distinct Anglophone Irish literature in English and a distinct Irish cultural and social history in this period, asking in what Irish claims to distinctiveness rested at the time. It concludes that we need to understand Irish culture and literature in more archipelagic and intercultural terms, and that the politics of the Union era themselves and Ireland’s exposure to the allegedly ‘enlightened’ and ‘universal’ norms of British imperial administration served to crystallise the memorialisation of Irish difference which in the end came to underpin the concept of a separate Irish Anglophone culture and literature.
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