The Construction of Irish Identity in American Literature

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Overview

This book examines the development of literary constructions of Irish-American identity from the mid-nineteenth century arrival of the Famine generation through the Great Depression. It goes beyond an analysis of negative Irish stereotypes and shows how Irish characters became the site of intense cultural debate regarding American identity, with some writers imagining Irishness to be the antithesis of Americanness, but others suggesting Irishness to be a path to Americanization.

This study emphasizes the importance of considering how a sense of Irishness was imagined by both Irish-American writers conscious of the process of self-definition as well as non-Irish writers responsive to shifting cultural concerns regarding ethnic others. It analyzes specific iconic Irish-American characters including Mark Twain's Huck Finn and Margaret Mitchell's Scarlet O'Hara, as well as lesser-known Irish monsters who lurked in the American imagination such as T.S. Eliot's Sweeney and Frank Norris' McTeague.

As Dowd argues, in contemporary American society, Irishness has been largely absorbed into a homogenous white culture, and as a result, it has become a largely invisible ethnicity to many modern literary critics. Too often, they simply do not see Irishness or do not think it relevant, and as a result, many Irish-American characters have been de-ethnicized in the critical literature of the past century. This volume reestablishes the importance of Irish ethnicity to many characters that have come to be misread as generically white and shows how Irishness is integral to their stories.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"With this book, Dowd makes an original, major contribution to the study of Irish American culture and literature, and to literature and cultural studies in general. Recommended."
—D. W. Madden, California State University, Sacramento, Choice

"One can imagine it providing ample material for discussion in courses on ethnicity or Irish-American Literature."
— Irish Literary Supplement

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Product Details

Meet the Author

Christopher Dowd is Assistant Professor of English at the University of New Haven.

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Table of Contents

List of Figures Preface Acknowledgments Introduction 1: Staging Ireland in America 2: "Sivilizing" Irish America 3: The Invisible Ethnicity 4: Replacing the Immigrant Narrative Afterword: Huck Finn’s People Notes Bibliography Index

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