Light, Freedom and Song: A Cultural History of Modern Irish Writing

Overview

In this absorbing analysis of modern Irish writing, an acknowledged expert considers the hybrid character of modern Irish writing to show how language, culture, and history have been affected by the colonial encounter between Ireland and Britain. Examining the great themes of loss and struggle, David Pierce traces the impact on Irish writing of the Great Famine and cultural nationalism and considers the way the work of Ireland’s two leading writers, W. B.Yeats and James Joyce, ...

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Overview

In this absorbing analysis of modern Irish writing, an acknowledged expert considers the hybrid character of modern Irish writing to show how language, culture, and history have been affected by the colonial encounter between Ireland and Britain. Examining the great themes of loss and struggle, David Pierce traces the impact on Irish writing of the Great Famine and cultural nationalism and considers the way the work of Ireland’s two leading writers, W. B.Yeats and James Joyce, complicate and elucidate our view of “the harp and the crown.”
The book draws a contrast between the West of Ireland in the 1930s, when the new Irish State enjoyed its first full independent decade, and the North of Ireland in the 1980s, when the spectre of British imperialism threatened the stability of Ireland. Pierce then surveys contemporary Irish writing and reflects on the legacy of the colonial encounter and on the passage to a postmodern or postnationalist Ireland in the work of such crucial living writers as John Banville, Derek Mahon, and John McGahern.

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Editorial Reviews

Brendan Kennelly
"It's a brave critic who dares to take on the complex darkness, riddled with savage and subtle contradictions, of Irish life and history. David Pierce goes more deeply than Sean O'Casey into the dark scene, exploring centuries of struggle and loss in a style that is sharp and thoughtful, curt and comprehensive. . . . The brilliant achievement of this book lies in Pierce's ability to focus an almost epigrammatic style on an epic scene, to move with concentrated, energetic assurance from century to century, from writer to writer, from one historical period to another in a revealing, memorable way. I would go so far as to say that David Pierce is a gifted storyteller who deals in the facts of history and the liberating, challenging wonders of literature. He confronts a massive historical drama and from it he extracts a story, drawn from a patient meditation on writers and writing, which he proceeds to tell with elegance, insight, precision and a kind of narrative charm that carries the reader buoyantly through horror and pain, struggle and loss, stagnation and renewal, silence and singing, right up to present day Ireland which remains a complex little country, still riddled with contradictions, still fascinating, still vibrant with writers, artists, communicators, mockers, sneerers and endlessly interesting jokers. One thing is sure: David Pierce has written a book that will get the whole lot of them talking their heads off."—Brendan Kennelly
The Irish Times - Declan Kiberd
"A lavishly illustrated and interesting book. Pierce writes brilliantly. . . . "—Declan Kiberd, The Irish Times
James Joyce Literary Supplement - Andrew Haggerty
". . . thoughtful throughout, and serves as a provocative account of two centuries of Irish cultural history—which is no mean feat. Pierce usefully illuminates the links between Irish writing and other models of artistic expression, as well as to popular culture . . ."—Andrew Haggerty, James Joyce Literary Supplement
Modern Philology - John Brannigan
". . . entertaining and stimulating and will attract many readers beyond the scholarly community of Irish studies, but . . . is also a substantial contribution to scholarship in modern Irish literary studies. . . . a finely detailed, perceptive, and careful reading . . ." —John Brannigan, Modern Philology, November 2008
Sewanee Review - Ben Howard
"If the appearance of Pierce’s book suggests an undemanding read, its content belies that expectation. Spanning more than two hundred years of modern Irish history, Light, Freedom, and Song is grounded in compendious fact, omnivorous reading, and the complexities of postcolonial literary theory."—Ben Howard, Sewanee Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300109948
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 9/15/2005
  • Pages: 320
  • Product dimensions: 7.60 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

David Pierce has taught, read, and written about modern literature and Irish writing for more than thirty years. He is the author of ten books and currently reviews editor for estudiosirlandeses.org, an internet journal for Irish Studies. His books include W.B.Yeats A Guide through the Critical Maze (Bristol Press, 1989); James Joyce's Ireland (Yale University Press); Yeats's Worlds: Ireland, England and the Poetic Imagination (Yale University Press); Irish Writing in the Twentieth Century: A Reader (Cork University Press); W.B.Yeats Critical Assessments 4 vols (Helm Information); Joyce and Company (Continuum), and Reading Joyce (Longman). Now retired, David lives in York, UK.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 The harp without the crown 1
Ch. 2 The hybrid character of modern Irish writing 25
Ch. 3 The Great Famine and modern Irish culture 55
Ch. 4 The impact of cultural nationalism 91
Ch. 5 Yeats's reveries on the Easter Rising 127
Ch. 6 Beyond a boundary : James Joyce and cricket 155
Ch. 7 Ireland in the 1930s 177
Ch. 8 Ireland in the 1980s 219
Ch. 9 Conclusion 261
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