Volume 38 Number 1

John Rickard (Ed.)

Irishness and (Post)Modernism

1994
229 pages
ISBN 0838752713
Bucknell Review

From Yeats's "indomitable Irishry" to Joyce's "old sow that eats her farrow" to Eavan Boland's "Mise Eire," modern Irish writers have constructed notions of Ireland and Irishness that conflict not only with each other but often also with the culture and politics of modern Ireland. At the same time, many of these same authors have been appropriated by an international criticism that prefers to see them not primarily as Irish writers working within a colonial or postcolonial framework but as literary modernists or postmodernists participating in the transnational avant-garde of twentieth-century letters. The nine essays collected in this issue of Bucknell Review approach this critical intersection between the national and transnational categories of Irishness and (post)modernism from different theoretical perspectives. In its own way, each essay seeks to investigate the consequences such as Irishness, modernism, and postmodernism when they are applied to a variety of modern Irish writers. The question of what nationality means - how it is constituted, how it operates, what value it has - is clearly once again becoming a central topic in contemporary world events. Nationalism calls into question concept such as modernism and postmodernism, with their assumption of a transnational culture that rbings artists in different countries into an aesthetic community in which issues of nationality are more often effaced in favor of more general aesthetic and philosophical issues. Claealry, many writers labeled as "modernist" or "postmodernist" do not fall easily into either side of this dichotomy. Similarly, few if any of the writers discussed here fit simply into any available construction of Irishness. The essays in this volume extend this inquiry into Irish culture and writing from the 1890s to the present. Textual tensions mirror larger conflicts between English and Irish and modernist and postmodernist in essays on Bram Stoker's Dracula and Oscar Wilder's The Picture of Dorian Gray. Another explored the importance of a "collaborative modernity" in shaping W. B. Yeats's adaption to the role of modern Irish poet, while two essays on James Joyce reconsider him as modernist. Samuel Beckett is read as modernist and postmodernist, and we see the poetry of Eavan Boland at the intersection of Irishness, modernism, and women's writing. Seamus Heaney and Ciaran Carson provide the poetic material for a reading of the tropic discourse used to handle images of the body amid the violence and dismemberment of Northern Irish writing, and the final essay questions a "state of chassis" in Ireland. These nine essays by leading scholars in Irish studies make a new and important contribution to questions of nationality and cosmopolitanism in Irish letters.

Contributors: Cannon Schmitt, Michael Patrick Gillespie, Margaret Mills Harper, Weldon Thornton, Kevin J. H. Dettmar, David Wheatley, Ann Owens Weekes, Rand Brandes, and Cheryl Herr.

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