British and Irish Literature Irish Modernism
by
Lauren Arrington
  • LAST MODIFIED: 20 September 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199846719-0069

Introduction

Irish modernism is an emerging field in literary studies. Historically, scholars have had a critical reticence to consider Irish writers as modernists due to the widespread emphasis on the internationalism of modernism, which has been interpreted as precluding a reading of these writers in a national context. For example, the canonical position of W. B. Yeats as Ireland’s national poet was a central obstacle to considerations of stylistic developments in his middle and late poetry, especially from criticism rooted in nationalist perspectives. Inversely, Samuel Beckett’s deliberate distancing of his work from canonically national literature facilitated a critical understanding of its position in relation to modernism, whereas—until very recently—it impeded the study of the national contexts out of which Beckett’s work arose. A wave of literary criticism and historiography has begun to challenge this understanding of the way in which modernism works. The major development in this regard is the proposition that the international and national contexts are no longer viewed as necessarily mutually exclusive. Furthermore, some critics are now interrogating the ways in which aspects of the Irish Revival (conventionally viewed as a conservative, antimodernist project) were in dialogue with early modernism. Some literary critics have turned their attention to theories of modernity and modernization in 20th-century Ireland in an effort to suggest the historical causes that precipitated the rise of modernist literature. Reevaluations of the Revival period are leading to a more complex evaluation of writers of the 1920s and beyond. In the history of criticism on modernism and Ireland, James Joyce stands as the exception because, as the entries below reflect, studies of his fiction in relation to the major modernist themes of myth, the city, history, and the importance of little magazines in the development of his work have provided the framework on which to build larger theories of the relationship between a national Irish literature and the modernist enterprise. The entries here reflect individuals who are considered major authors in 20th-century literature as well as lesser-known figures, i.e., individuals whose work has been considered with regard to many modernist themes but who are not described explicitly as modernists in criticism to date. It is anticipated that with the development of Irish modernism as an area of study these writers will be subject to reappraisal, and a greater body of criticism, informed but not constrained by the idea of the nation, will emerge.

General Overviews

Booth and Rigby 2000 is an excellent starting point for understanding early criticism on the subject of Irish modernism. It takes an explicitly postcolonial framework, which also underpins Kearney 1987. Kearney uses the term “revivalist modernism” to describe the relationship between the Irish Revival and the modernist aesthetic. This theme is discussed in Foster 1991, which makes a strong case for aspects of the Revival (apocalypse, primitivism, and narrative form) as indicative of Irish modernism. This is also the focus of Brown 2010, in which the approach is informed by recent developments in historiography, which define modern Ireland as a postimperial rather than a postcolonial state. Nolan 2004 suggests that the Irish Revival was not radical in form but radical in context and looks to modernization (see Theories of Modernity and Modernization) to explain the reception of modernist literature. Many essays in Keown and Taaffe 2009 reflect a postcolonial perspective, which is the most divisive question in the study of Irish literature.

  • Booth, Howard J., and Nigel Rigby, eds. Modernism and Empire. Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, 2000.

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    Discusses modernism in relation to the British Empire. Relevant chapters include Elleke Boehmer’s “‘Immeasurable Strangeness’ in Imperial Times: Leonard Woolf and W. B. Yeats,” C. L. Innes’s “Modernism, Ireland and Empire: Yeats, Joyce and Their Implied Audiences,” John Nash’s “‘Hanging over the Bloody Paper’: Newspapers and Imperialism in Ulysses,” and Máire ní Fhlathúin’s “The Anti-Colonial Modernism of Patrick Pearse.”

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  • Brown, Terence. “Ireland, Modernism and the 1930s.” In The Literature of Ireland: Culture and Criticism. By Terence Brown, 88–103. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511760662.008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Discusses marginality of, and hostility to, modernism in Ireland after the formation of the postimperial state in 1922. Considers the position of literary periodicals, such as Motley and The Dublin Magazine, in relation to the modernist movement. Suggests the Irish Revival has a complex, contiguous relationship to modernism. Articulates areas of shared interests of nationalism and modernism, drawing on provocative comparisons with English culture.

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  • Foster, John Wilson. “Irish Modernism.” In Colonial Consequences: Essays in Irish Literature and Culture. By John Wilson Foster, 44–59. Dublin: Lilliput, 1991.

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    Suggests that the Irish Revival has more in common with modernism than romanticism, particularly its primitivist and apocalyptic strains. Emphasizes the backward look of modernism generally and draws the greatest parallel with the Revival. Particular emphasis on occultism/mysticism and folklore. Argues that folktales present narrative self-reflexivity characteristic of modernism.

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  • Kearney, Richard. Transitions: Narratives in Modern Irish Culture. Dublin: Wolfhound, 1987.

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    Suggests that Irish modernists exploit the moment of transition, the “crisis of culture”(p. 9), in their opposition to a continuous view of past and present. Considers the tension between revivalism and modernism and posits these new terms: “revivalist modernism” to describe authors’ use of tradition and “radical modernism” (p. 14) to describe the antitradition stance. Discusses W. B. Yeats, James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Flann O’Brien, and Francis Stuart, among others.

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  • Keown, Edwina, and Carol Taaffe, eds. Irish Modernism: Origins, Contexts, Publics. Oxford and New York: Peter Lang, 2009.

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    Asserts Ireland was significant in the development of literary modernism. This interdisciplinary volume considers art, literature, and architecture. Similarly to Longley 2003 (cited under Poetry), suggests the relationship between nation and internationalism/cosmopolitanism was best conceived as interdependence rather than conflict. “Colonial” context emphasized by several contributors. Posits category of “late (or “deferred”) modernism” (p. 5) in the 1940s and 1950s in which Elizabeth Bowen is included. Thomas MacGreevy, W. B. Yeats, and James Joyce are prominent throughout.

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  • Nolan, Emer. “Modernism and the Irish Revival.” In The Cambridge Companion to Modern Irish Culture. Edited by Joe Cleary and Claire Connolly, 157–172. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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    Builds on the analysis of W. B. Yeats in relation to romanticism and modernism and James Joyce’s innovations. Argues that the literary output of the Revival period was not radical in form but was nonetheless radical in the context of its predecessors (nationalist ballad poetry and stage melodramas). Argues that modernism in Ireland is confined to literature. Concludes by suggesting that the desire for modernization led to the rejection of modernist expression.

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Poetry

Longley 2003 challenges the critical assumption that international and national perspectives on literature are incompatible and suggests a theoretical framework for the study of Irish modernism. Coughlan and Davis 1995 is a useful survey of major and minor figures in Irish poetry. Kiberd 2005 contrasts Irish literature in English with Irish poetry in Irish to provide a fuller understanding of the varieties of modernism at work.

  • Coughlan, Patricia, and Alex Davis, eds. Modernism and Ireland: The Poetry of the 1930s. Cork, Ireland: Cork University Press, 1995.

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    Essays on Austin Clarke, Thomas MacGreevy, Brian Coffey, Samuel Beckett, Denis Devlin, and George Reavey. The introduction discusses their interrelationships. The first chapter, by Terence Brown, sets out the context for modernism in the 1930s in the wake of James Joyce and argues that Ireland is exceptional in the channeling of political resistance into nationalism, which was elsewhere expressed in reactionary terms.

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  • Kiberd, Declan. “The Flowering Tree: Modern Poetry in Irish.” In The Irish Writer and the World. By Declan Kiberd, 105–126. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511485923.008Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Begins with a consideration of Irish modernism as the process of revolt against style, dominated by emigrants, with exception of the “literature of extreme situations” (p. 106), particularly that dealing with life in the western islands. Provocative ideas about modernism give way to considerations of Irish-language poetry of the 1960s and 1970s and contemporary literature, with an emphasis on the continuance of a dual tradition (Anglo-Irish and Gaelic).

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  • Longley, Edna. “Irish Poetry and ‘Internationalism’: Variations on a Critical Theme.” Irish Review 30 (Spring–Summer 2003): 48–61.

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    Seeks a clearer definition of internationalism and reviews criticism that privileges internationalism over nationalism. Takes issue with the simplification in Coughlan and Davis 1995 implying that W. B. Yeats is a noninternationalist and James Joyce is never a realist. Suggests that Irish nationalism converges with internationalism; argues for a dialectical understanding of the national and the international. Available online by subscription.

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Prose

Kern 2011 stresses the importance of formal innovation in the development of modernism; although James Joyce is the only Irish writer under consideration, the book provides a strong model on which to base the study of other Irish writers and Irish modernism. Schwarz 2005 is deceptively titled because, again, Joyce is the only Irish writer to be considered. Richardson 1997 considers Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Elizabeth Bowen, and Flann O’Brien as British, instead of Irish, writers, but it is nonetheless useful as a challenge to the idea that literary history progresses linearly and opens up a means of considering the coexistence of different modes of representation in Irish literary history. Quintelli-Neary 1997 is important for its analysis of how folklore functioned as a means of conveying myth, an essential aspect of modernism. Deane 1984 is a good introduction to the fiction of Joyce and Beckett in relation to the themes of modernism and nationality.

  • Deane, Seamus. “Joyce and Beckett.” Irish University Review 14.1 (Spring 1984): 57–68.

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    Surveys the convenient and superficial ways in which James Joyce and Samuel Beckett are frequently compared, such as their lives in exile. Argues that a sophisticated analysis of each relies on examining their differences; for example, Joyce privileges Ireland, whereas Beckett denigrates it. Good introduction to the fiction of both in relation to the themes of modernism and nationality.

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  • Kern, Stephen. The Modernist Novel: A Critical Introduction. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511862656Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Addresses the novel according to seven components: character, event, space, time, framework, text, and narrator. James Joyce is the only novelist from Ireland under consideration, but Kern’s attention to formal innovation as a new means of interpreting the world is a lucid model on which to base studies of other Irish writers.

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  • Quintelli-Neary, Marguerite. Folklore and the Fantastic in Twelve Modern Irish Novels. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1997.

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    Analyzes the use of Celtic myth and folklore in James Joyce, Flann O’Brien, Mervyn Wall, Darrell Figgis, Eimar O’Duffy, and James Stephens. Suggests that repetition of myths is part of the search for national identity. The focus on modern novels allows incorporation of fantasy fiction by O’Duffy and Stephens, which is less suited to modernist writing. Chapters on Joyce and O’Brien are relevant to myth and modernism.

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  • Richardson, Brian. “Remapping the Present: The Master Narrative of Modern Literary History and the Lost Forms of Twentieth-Century Fiction.” Twentieth Century Literature 43.3 (Autumn 1997): 291–309.

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    Provocative challenge to the neat categorization that interprets literary history as linear progression: from realism to high modernism to postmodernism. Traces aspects of each across movement across the long 20th century: from the 1890s through the 1990s. Considers Irish writers James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Elizabeth Bowen, and Flann O’Brien but under the umbrella of British literature. Suggests aesthetic categories (such as expressionism) for dismantling the blanket category of modernism.

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  • Schwarz, Daniel R. Reading the Modern British and Irish Novel, 1890–1930. Malden, MA, and Oxford: Blackwell, 2005.

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    The introduction considers approaches to the novel and argues for a historical contextual approach. Chapter 1 surveys the characteristics of the modern novel, a term used interchangeably with “modernism.” Deceptively titled, James Joyce is the only Irish novelist to be considered; see chapter 7 on Dubliners and chapter 8 on Ulysses.

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Authors

Samuel Beckett and James Joyce are foundational authors in modernist studies. W. B. Yeats is a more controversial figure, subject to debates that are reflected in the sources cited in this article. Elizabeth Bowen, understood widely as a modernist or late-modernist writer, historically has occupied a marginal place in the canon of Irish literature, but the development of Irish modernism as a field of study has reinforced her importance in 20th-century Irish literature. Much of the criticism on the poets Austin Clarke, Brian Coffey and Denis Devlin focuses on their work in relation to Beckett and Joyce and illustrates the extent to which modernism is present (but largely unexamined) in mid-20th-century Irish writing. Coffey was Devlin’s literary executor, and the tendency of critics to discuss them together is reflected in their inclusion here. The development of Irish modernism as a field of study has resulted in greater attention to the novels of Francis Stuart. This work suggests the necessity of a scholarly reappraisal of Liam O’Flaherty, because critical perspectives on his fiction reflect similar themes to those of Stuart, such as primitivism, dislocation, degeneracy, and alienation, which are considered to be characteristics of modernism. Similarly, the spiritualism of George Russell (particularly his ideas about an apocalypse), his importance in establishing an innovative periodical culture, and his rejection of urban life in favor of the rural have been subject to critical attention. Although critics have yet to suggest that Russell is a modernist, he is a central figure in the development of a theory of Irish modernism that incorporates national and international aspects. John Eglinton is often overlooked by students and critics, but his Dana (cited under Little Magazines) is essential to understanding the tensions between the national and international in Irish modernism. Poet and critic Thomas MacGreevy is similarly central to Irish modernism, both in literature and in the Visual Arts.

Samuel Beckett

Mays 1984 is an important, formative essay for considerations of Samuel Beckett (b. 1906–d. 1989) in relation to Ireland. This focus on the Irishness of Beckett laid the groundwork for Morin 2009, which complicates claims on Beckett as a national writer and suggests that his Irishness should instead be a means of understanding the development of his work and modernism generally. McNaughton 2010 is similar to Morin 2009, as he interrogates Beckett’s emphasis on the idea of aftermath and suggests that this has roots in the politics in the Irish Free State. Ackerman 2003 sees Beckett’s Irish Protestantism as related to his representation of the supernatural in the visual world. Two essays are included that focus on individual works. O’Leary 2003 looks at All That Fall as a commentary on Ireland and the modern world. Pearson 2001 is provocative and privileges a postcolonial reading over a modernist approach.

  • Ackerman, Alan. “Samuel Beckett’s Spectres du Noir: The Being of Paintings and the Flatness of Film.” Contemporary Literature 44.3 (Autumn 2003): 399–441.

    DOI: 10.2307/1209027Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues Beckett critiques modernist aesthetic of flatness as a desirable form of representation of inner life. Looks at art criticism and film as ways in which to enlighten an understanding of supernatural representation. Considers Ireland in terms of James Joyce’s Dublin/Purgatory paradigm and W. B. Yeats’s Purgatory, but these points and the historical context are not considered fully. Links Beckett’s Irish Protestantism and representation of the supernatural in the “flat” visual world. Available online by subscription.

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  • Mays, J. C. C. “Young Beckett’s Irish Roots.” Irish University Review 14.1 (Spring 1984): 18–33.

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    Considers changing perceptions of Beckett as an Irish writer. Describes the landscape of Beckett’s upbringing and its portrayal in late work; argues that this is a mythic process in order to excavate the unconscious. Contrasts Beckett’s life and work with those of most writers of the 1930s. Discusses Beckett’s treatment of Irish writers whom he admired. Suggests that Irish elements were “present in order to be denied” (p. 25). Available online by subscription.

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  • McNaughton, James. “The Politics of Aftermath: Beckett, Modernism, and the Irish Free State.” In Beckett and Ireland. Edited by Seán Kennedy, 56–77. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

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    Suggests that Beckett’s late entry on the scene of Irish writing and modernism influenced his emphasis on its aftermath. Argues that the theme of aftermath is a distancing device that enables him to appraise history, politics, and modernism. Convincingly argues that Beckett’s focus on repetition also extends to modernism and a critique of its conventions.

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  • Morin, Emilie. Samuel Beckett and the Problem of Irishness. Basingstoke, UK, and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

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    Contextualizes the literary history of Beckett studies. Suggests Beckett’s location as a national writer is far less important than a consideration of the way in which historical specificity resulted in the development of his work and modernism more widely. Investigates the residue of Irishness in his texts and their place as signifiers of distance between Beckett and the Irish Revival.

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  • O’Leary, Joseph S. “Beckett’s Intertextual Power.” Journal of Irish Studies 18 (2003): 87–101.

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    Suggests that a full appreciation of Beckett’s work demands an intertextual approach, part of a modernist project revising Western literary tradition. Considers All That Fall as a parody of a radio play about rural Ireland and considers the outdated nature of Mrs. Rooney’s language as a commentary on Irish society and the modern world. Available online by subscription.

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  • Pearson, Nels C. “‘Outside of Here It’s Death’: Co-Dependency and the Ghosts of Decolonization in Beckett’s Endgame.” ELH 68.1 (Spring 2001): 215–239.

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    Reads the modernist themes (disintegration of language, dislocation, and intertextuality) in Endgame in a postcolonial relationship that deals specifically with the oppression of Irish by English cultures. Compelling argument but demands that postcolonial reading supplants rather than coexists with the modernist understanding of the text. Available online by subscription.

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Elizabeth Bowen

Heath 1961 was one of the first biographies of Elizabeth Bowen (b. 1899–d. 1973), and it raises comparisons with British authors who have studied Irish modernism. Austin 1989 describes Bowen as a British, instead of an Irish, writer, but it is nonetheless included here because his chapters provide synopses of her novels and stories, which are an excellent resource for directing further reading on themes related to Irish modernism. Corcoran 2001 is a superb example of the confluence of historical subject and modernist style. Corcoran 2004 is a literary biography that discusses Bowen as a modernist and contrasts her work to that of T. S. Eliot and James Joyce. Ellmann 2003 compares Bowen to other modernists at greater length. Foster 1993 provides the foundation for the address by Lee 1999 of the importance of Bowen’s Irish contexts. Lassner and Derdiger 2009 takes a more theoretical approach than the other essays included here and relates ideas about contamination to a colonial Other.

  • Austin, Allan E. Elizabeth Bowen. Rev. ed. Boston: Twayne, 1989.

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    Suggests that Elizabeth Bowen begins where T. S. Eliot’s The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock ends. Describes Bowen as a British writer and compares her to Virginia Woolf and E. M. Forster. Emphasis is on style. Chapters provide synopses of novels and best-known short stories. Clear overview of plots and themes is useful for directing further reading.

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  • Corcoran, Neil. “Discovery of a Lack: History and Ellipsis in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September.” Irish University Review 31.2 (Autumn–Winter 2001): 315–333.

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    Begins with a discussion of Bowen’s use of dialogue and then focuses on an analysis of structural ellipses that resonate with the position of the Irish Big House in history. Includes a comparison of sections of Bowen’s novel with James Joyce’s Ulysses (Paris: Shakespeare, 1922) and draws attention to Bowen’s epigraph from Marcel Proust. The term “modernism” is only deployed once. Available online by subscription.

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  • Corcoran, Neil. Elizabeth Bowen: The Enforced Return. Oxford: Clarendon, 2004.

    DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198186908.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Considers Elizabeth Bowen’s link between reading and remembering as “fictitious memory” (p. 9), in light of T. S. Eliot’s idea of the “auditory imagination” (p. 9), and posits recovery through return to origins. Includes three parts: “Ireland,” “Children,” and “War.” Suggests that Bowen was deeply impressed with the aims of High Modernism but that she does not abandon realist conventions until her final two novels. Asserts that Bowen was skeptical of James Joyce but admired Virginia Woolf.

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  • Ellmann, Maud. Elizabeth Bowen: The Shadow across the Page. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2003.

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    Interprets Elizabeth Bowen as balancing realism with experimentation and contrasts her style to other modernists, such as Virginia Woolf and T. S. Eliot. Focuses almost exclusively on her novels, which are discussed chronologically but organized according to conceptual themes such as transport, furniture, and incubism. Highly readable with insightful close readings.

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  • Foster, R. F. “The Irishness of Elizabeth Bowen.” In Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History. By R. F. Foster, 102–122. London: Allen Lane, 1993.

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    Compares Elizabeth Bowen to W. B. Yeats in her desire for “order, abstraction, classical symmetry” (p. 103) although her writing conveys a sense of chaos. Argues that Bowen is subversive with the theme of dispossession at the center. Gives examples of particularly Irish questions raised in her fiction, especially referring to prewar. Excellent introduction to Bowen’s Irish (or Anglo-Irish) perspective.

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  • Heath, William. Elizabeth Bowen: An Introduction to Her Novels. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1961.

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    Chapter 2, “Italy and Ireland,” discusses together The Hotel (London: Constable, 1927) and The Last September (New York: Knopf, 1929). Emphasizes the theme of futility in the latter, evident in the structure of Elizabeth Bowen’s novel. Suggests Bowen introduces the “concept of the saving pattern (p. 42) in The Last September, developed further in later novels. Raises provocative comparisons with British writers of the 1920s and 1930s that can inform consideration of Irish modernism.

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  • Lassner, Phyllis, and Paula Derdiger. “Domestic Gothic, the Global Primitive, and Gender Relations in Elizabeth Bowen’s The Last September and The House in Paris.” In Irish Modernism and the Global Primitive. Edited by Maria McGarrity and Claire A. Culleton, 195–214. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009.

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    Lucidly argues that Elizabeth Bowen’s fictional domestic interiors are destabilized by political and cultural turbulence. Informed by postcolonial theory, reading the Other as a masculine force and the perception of the Other as a contaminant. Similar in approach to Jim Hansen’s Terror and Irish Modernism (Albany: State University of New York Press, 2009).

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  • Lee, Hermione. Elizabeth Bowen. Rev. ed. London: Vintage, 1999.

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    Revised edition of landmark study of Elizabeth Bowen, originally published in 1981. The introduction, “Re-reading Bowen,” considers her detached, alienated style in light of the insecurity of the Anglo-Irish class and instabilities in Irish politics more generally. Chronological literary biography, with comparisons to Virginia Woolf, Henry James, and Katherine Mansfield throughout. Sees her book as a counterweight to the postmodern reading offered by Bennett and Royle 1995 (cited under Postmodernism).

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Austin Clarke

Schirmer 1983 argues that Austin Clarke (b. 1896–d. 1974) was not a modernist due to his interest in creating a national literature but is useful for understanding the historical critical antagonism to a consideration of Irish writers as modernists. Garratt 1974 investigates significant changes in Clarke’s style that mark his movement from romantic to modernist poet. Similarly to Garratt, Lucy 1983 argues that Clarke’s poetry changed over time and suggests that this is related to the innovations of other modernists including Ezra Pound and W. B. Yeats.

  • Garratt, Robert F. “Austin Clarke in Transition.” Irish University Review 4.1 (Spring 1974): 100–116.

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    Analyzes changes in Austin Clarke’s aesthetic transitioning from romantic to modernist. Looks at the grandiosity of his imagery in early poems supplanted by sparse, compact descriptions in his later verse. Considers at length “The Image of the City.” Compares Clarke to James Joyce. Also examines his use of parody. Builds an argument on the framework of thesis and antithesis, drawing from Frank O’Connor’s schema for 20th-century Irish writing. Available online by subscription.

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  • Lucy, Seán. “The Poetry of Austin Clarke.” Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 9.1 (June 1983): 5–21.

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    Similarly to Garratt, Lucy argues that Austin Clarke moves from romantic nationalism to modernism. Suggests Clarke’s response to James Stephen’s collection of folklore is similar to Flann O’Brien’s response. Examines Clarke’s growing interest in wordplay, his references to Ezra Pound, W. B. Yeats, and T. S. Eliot in poems, and his retelling of Greek and Irish myths. Available online by subscription.

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  • Schirmer, Gregory A. The Poetry of Austin Clarke. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983.

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    Survey of Austin Clarke’s work, insistent on his identity as an Irish writer writing for an Irish audience. Considers Clarke’s Catholicism in comparison to that of James Joyce and argues the similarity can be pushed too far. Views the modernism of Joyce and W. B. Yeats as internationalist and emphasizes Clarke’s statement that modernism could “have little practical value in this country” (p. 11).

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Brian Coffey and Denis Devlin

Alex Davis is responsible for the majority of scholarship on Denis Devlin (b. 1908–d. 1959). Davis 2000 suggests that Devlin’s poetry is more closely related to Anglo-American modernism than to Irish poetry. This view is implicitly challenged by Wilson 2009, which looks at the reception of the poem in Ireland and popular claims to Devlin as Ireland’s T. S. Eliot. Davis 1995 suggests that Devlin’s Catholicism worked in tandem with his modernist poetics, with particular regard to the theme of rupture. Moriarty 2000 reads Brian Coffey (b. 1905–d. 1995) in the context of Devlin and Samuel Beckett.

  • Davis, Alex. “‘Foreign and Credible’: Denis Devlin’s Modernism.” Éire-Ireland (Summer 1995): 131–147.

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    Begins with Samuel Beckett’s appraisal of contemporary poetry into those he disparagingly referred to as antiquarians (such as Yeats) and others, under which category Beckett praised Denis Devlin and Brian Coffey. Considers the theme of rupture, characteristic of high modernism, in Devlin’s poetry and suggests this is most evident in his use of vocabulary. Argues that Devlin’s modernism reinforces his Jansenist perspective.

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  • Davis, Alex. A Broken Line: Denis Devlin and Irish Poetic Modernism. Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2000.

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    Argues that it is necessary to read Devlin’s work in the context of Anglo-American modernism rather than in the tradition of Irish poetry after W. B. Yeats. Proposes that writers of the 1930s are second-generation modernists. Chapter 1, “Irish Poetic Modernisms” considers Yeats, Samuel Beckett, and Thomas MacGreevy in order to argue that Devlin has more in common with Wallace Stevens than with Beckett.

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  • Moriarty, Dónal. The Art of Brian Coffey. Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2000.

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    Examines Coffey’s use of sound as a means of achieving tone and rhythm. Chapters are devoted to the Third Person (1938), Advent (1975) and Death of Hektor (1982), and translation. Situates Coffey alongside Samuel Beckett and Denis Devlin and argues that his appeal to the new generation of poets in Ireland excels their interest in W. B. Yeats, Patrick Kavanagh, and Seamus Heaney.

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  • Wilson, James Matthew. “Late Modernism and the Marketplace in Denis Devlin’s The Heavenly Foreigner.” In Irish Modernism: Origins, Contexts, Publics. Edited by Edwina Keown and Carol Taaffe, 159–175. Oxford and New York: Peter Lang, 2009.

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    Considers the Irish Independent’s remark that Devlin was Ireland’s T. S. Eliot, with regard to Devlin’s poetics as well as his Catholicity. Attributes the reception of the poem partly to Coffey’s intention that it be perceived as a modernist classic. Offers close readings of Devlin’s The Heavenly Foreigner (Dublin: Dolmen, 1967) alongside selections from Eliot’s The Waste Land (New York: Boni & Liveright, 1922).

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John Eglinton

W. K. Magee (b. 1868–d. 1961), who wrote under the pseudonym of John Eglinton, is also considered under Little Magazines. The essays included here focus on aspects of Eglinton unrelated or peripheral to his work on Dana: An Irish Magazine of Independent Thought (cited under Little Magazines). Boyd 1913 is an informative glance into the contemporary reception of Eglinton and makes reference to a number of themes that have come to be characterized as modernist. Scott 1975 looks at the impact on James Joyce of Eglinton’s encouragement of experimentalism.

  • Boyd, Ernest A. “John Eglinton.” North American Review 198.696 (November 1913): 675–687.

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    Contemporary article characterizing Eglinton in contrast with the other major figures of the Revival. Suggests he has an “ironical detachment” (p. 676). Reviews his corpus, particularly Two Essays on the Remnant (Dublin: Whaley, 1894) in which Eglinton compares “artists and thinkers who have not been assimilated by modern civilization” (p. 677) to the Chosen People. Sees these people as outside the world of progress. Modernist themes abound. Available online by subscription.

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  • Scott, Bonnie K. “John Eglinton: A Model for Joyce’s Individualism.” James Joyce Quarterly 12.4 (Summer 1975): 347–357.

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    Discusses Eglinton’s place as critic of the Irish Revival and contrasts his view of the place of literature in development of national identity to those of W. B. Yeats and the Gaelic League. Considers Eglinton’s encouragement of experimentalism and individualism. Traces Joyce’s reading of Eglinton and his cultivation of their relationship, as well as the refusal of “A Portrait of the Artist” for Dana. Available online by subscription.

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James Joyce

Beebe 1972 is an excellent introduction to the definitive modernist novel. Nash 2006 is important for considerations of Irish modernism because it investigates the way in which the reception of James Joyce’s (b. 1882–d. 1941) work in Ireland was incorporated into the work itself. Shea 2006 is compelling for its suggestion that Joyce supplants religious myth (Catholicism) with classical myth, on which he maps the Dublin cityscape. Thornton 1994 has been included because, although it does not address Irish modernism directly, it revisits Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man in order to suggest that this early work has been incorrectly influenced by retrospective readings based on Finnegans Wake. Levitt 2000 argues that critical resistance to Joyce stemmed from his modernist aesthetic rather than his nationality; this provides a contrasting perspective to the predominant work on Joyce and Ireland. Carville 2008 is strongly based on Fredric Jameson’s postcolonial theory and offers a reading of Joyce’s story that emphasizes perceptions of Ireland conveyed in a modernist style.

  • Beebe, Maurice. “Ulysses and the Age of Modernism.” In Special 50th Anniversary Issue: Ulysses. James Joyce Quarterly 10.1 (Fall 1972): 172–188.

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    Dates literary modernism as the period from the 1870s to World War II. Looks at Eliot’s essay, “Ulysses, Order and Myth” (1923), which suggests that The Odyssey supplants Christian mythology as a means of telling Joyce’s story about modern Ireland.” Reads Ulysses as containing all aspects of modernism as defined by Beebe. Available online by subscription.

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  • Carville, Conor. “Modernism, Nationalism and Postcolonialism: Four Figures from ‘The Dead.’” Journal of Irish Studies 23 (2008): 12–23.

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    Applies Fredric Jameson’s theory of modernist style articulated in his essay ”Modernism and Imperialism” in order to interpret “The Dead.” Offers comparative reading of Joyce against Jameson’s reading of Ralph Waldo Emerson. Particular emphasis on the image of Gretta as perceived by Gabriel and the image of Ireland arising in Gabriel’s consciousness. Interprets these symbols in relation to nationalist iconography. Proposes a nationalist-modernist style. Available online by subscription.

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  • Levitt, Morton P. James Joyce and Modernism: Beyond Dublin. Lewiston, NY: E. Mellen, 2000.

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    Argues that resistance to Joyce stems from his place as a modernist, not as an Irishman. Essays include the significance of Jewish tradition in Joyce, use of myth, experiments in form, and relationship between his work and modernist painting, particularly cityscapes. The conclusion examines reception in criticism and popular culture and argues that Joyce is the progenitor of the modernist novel.

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  • Nash, John. James Joyce and the Act of Reception: Reading, Ireland, Modernism. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511485220Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Examines Joyce’s act of incorporating the reception of his work into his writing. Argues that self-consciousness of reception identifies his work as modern. Chapter 3 deals most explicitly with Joyce as a modernist in its consideration of modernists’ rejection of a mass culture and the ordinary reader, as well as the place of these ordinary readers both in his work and in its reception.

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  • Shea, Daniel M. James Joyce and the Mythology of Modernism. Stuttgart: Ibidem-Verlag, 2006.

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    Lucidly written case for understanding Ulysses as myth rather than as comprised of mythical fragments. Suggests that the book provides a substitute for Catholicism with Joyce as “Creator” (p. 14). Discusses Catholicism, science, and history. Useful introductory text because it draws from critics and theorists but does not demand previous knowledge of critical approaches or arguments.

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  • Thornton, Weldon. The Antimodernism of Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1994.

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    Argues Portrait is antimodernist, based on a reading of the text as a critique of Stephen’s modernist worldview and search for self-knowledge. Argues that Joyce presents Stephen’s desire for self-determination ironically and that Joyce’s conception of the self as more complex than Enlightenment-based individualism is characteristic of modernism. Chapter 2, “Literary Modernism,” defines terms and argues that a critical interpretation of Finnegans Wake has incorrectly inflected Portrait.

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Denis Johnston

Ferrar 1973 contextualizes Denis Johnston’s (b. 1901–d. 1984) drama in the theater of 1920s Dublin, and his survey of the plays provides a useful starting point for readers unfamiliar with Johnston’s work. St. Peter 1987 looks at the reception of Johnston by the directors of the Abbey Theatre and contrasts the conservatism of that theater with the experimentalism of the Gate Theatre. O’Brien 1989 looks at Johnston’s interest in German expressionism and the development of his expressionist aesthetic. Morash 2007 considers Johnston’s prolonged interest in Jonathan Swift as a modernist preoccupation.

  • Ferrar, Harold. Denis Johnston’s Irish Theatre. Dublin: Dolmen, 1973.

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    Also important for modernism and performance. Begins by setting Johnston’s work in the context of Irish drama in the 1920s. Surveys productions and receptions of his early experimental work including The Old Lady Says “No!” and The Moon in the Yellow River. Also considers Johnston’s later work in convention of realism that was driven by commercial pressures prior to his return to experimental drama with The Golden Cuckoo.

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  • Morash, Chris. “Denis Johnston’s Swift Project: ‘There Must Be Something Wrong with the Information.’” Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 33.2 (Fall 2007): 56–59.

    DOI: 10.2307/25515679Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Suggests that Johnston used his theory of Swift’s biography as a means of negotiating the idea of human nature, which can only be known through information that is inherently defective and must be explored through a medium. Considers his contributions to the periodical Motley and his battle for modern, theatrical theater. Argues Johnston’s project is “a key artefact of Irish modernism” (p. 59). Available online by subscription.

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  • O’Brien, John. “Expressionism and the Formative Years: Insights from the Early Diaries of Denis Johnston.” Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 15.1 (July 1989): 34–57.

    DOI: 10.2307/25512764Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Traces Johnston’s interest in experimental theater, particularly expressionism. Looks at the impact of his association with the Dublin Drama League. Investigates Johnston’s definition of expressionism, his attitudes to German expressionism, and debates surrounding his play Shadowdance, later renamed The Old Lady Says “No!” Available online by subscription.

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  • St. Peter, Christine. “Denis Johnston, the Abbey and the Spirit of the Age.” Irish University Review 17.2 (Autumn 1987): 187–206.

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    Looks at W. B. Yeats and Lady Gregory’s judgment of expressionism as “no law” and “all jaw” (p. 195). Similar to O’Brien 1989 but also discusses the Abbey directors’ attitudes toward the Gate Theatre. Suggests that Johnston’s iconoclasm is more in keeping with his generation than with conservative adherence to the Abbey’s norms. Useful excerpts documenting the contemporary reception of The Old Lady Says “No!” Available online by subscription.

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Thomas MacGreevy

Schreibman 1986 is an excellent introduction to Thomas MacGreevy’s (b. 1893–d. 1967) poetry. Schreibman also coordinates the Thomas MacGreevy Archive, an online resource that provides access to the primary work and secondary criticism of MacGreevy and his relationships with major figures in Irish modernism. Dawson 1988 looks at the friendship between MacGreevy and James Joyce in Paris and suggests that MacGreevy was a mediating voice between Joyce and Samuel Beckett. Kennedy 2005 discusses Beckett’s attitude toward MacGreevy and suggests that Beckett did not see MacGreevy as embodying a radical new aesthetic. Lloyd 2005 suggests that the different modernist aesthetics at work in the three authors stems from their different visions for the Irish Republic. Mhac an tSaoi and Schreibman 1991 provides further context on MacGreevy and Irish writers by looking at his reception by various poets, including Austin Clarke.

  • Dawson, Hugh J. “Thomas MacGreevy and Joyce.” James Joyce Quarterly 25.3 (Spring 1988): 305–321.

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    Discusses the friendship between Thomas MacGreevy and James Joyce in Paris. Analyzes unpublished criticism by MacGreevy on Joyce’s work that draws attention to its Catholic elements, particularly the influence of Dante’s Commedia. Suggests that MacGreevy was introduced to Joyce through Beckett. Discusses MacGreevy’s essay ”The Catholic Element in Work in Progress,” published in the collection Our Exagmination Round His Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress (1929). Available online by subscription.

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  • Kennedy, Seán. “Beckett Reviewing MacGreevy: A Reconsideration.” Irish University Review 35.2 (Autumn–Winter 2005): 273–287.

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    Considers two important articles by Samuel Beckett: “Recent Irish Poetry” for the Bookman (1934) and “Humanistic Quietism” in the Dublin Magazine (1934) to reappraise his view of MacGreevy’s poetry. Suggests that Beckett saw MacGreevy’s poetry as important in postwar Ireland but not in terms of development of a radical Irish poetic. Suggests that this is a result of their differing religious views. Available online by subscription.

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  • Lloyd, David. “Republics of Difference: Yeats, MacGreevy, Beckett.” Field Day Review (2005): 42–66.

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    Interrogates problems of representation that arise in an attempt to represent a people who have never been represented and the regularization of representation in order to create an affirmative source for identity. Suggests that the postcolonial margins are where modernist critiques of representation arise. Argues that the differences in representation in W. B. Yeats, Thomas MacGreevy, and Samuel Beckett arise from their differing visions of the republic.

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  • Mhac an tSaoi, Máire, and Susan Schreibman. “Máire Mhac an tSaoi and Susan Schreibman on Thomas MacGreevy.” Poetry Ireland Review 32 (Summer 1991): 73–83.

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    Transcription of conversation between Mhac an tSaoi (Irish-language scholar, poet, and academic) and Susan Schreibman on MacGreevy’s legacy in Ireland. Particularly useful insights into his reception by other poets, such as Austin Clarke. Discusses MacGreevy’s relationships with James Joyce in Paris and W. B. Yeats in Dublin. Includes comparisons to T. S. Eliot.

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  • Schreibman, Susan. “A Brief View into the Poems of Thomas MacGreevy.” Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 75.299 (Autumn 1986): 328–333.

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    Good introduction to MacGreevy’s work. Discusses the poet’s sense of Irish identity. Glosses important relationships with major figures in modernism. Considers briefly the impact of World War I and life in Paris on MacGreevy’s writing. Reading of “Gloria de Carlos V” is an intriguing introduction to the relationship between MacGreevy’s poetry and his art criticism. Available online by subscription.

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  • Schreibman, Susan, ed. Thomas MacGreevy Archive.

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    Comprehensive bibliography of MacGreevy’s writings with subcollections containing his correspondence with George Yeats and Ernie O’Malley. Also under “Collections” are links to an “Online Broadsheet” exploring the relationship between MacGreevy and Jack B. Yeats, “Composing a Poem” with manuscript drafts of select poems, and “Who’s Who in the MacGreevy Archive.” Under “Image Gallery” are useful resources illustrating MacGreevy’s life in London, Paris, and Dublin.

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Flann O’Brien

Flann O’Brien (a pseudonym of Brian O’Nolan, b. 1811–d. 1966, who also used the pseudonym Myles na Gopaleen) has been included here because he is considered as a modernist writer by some critics and a postmodernist by others (such as Brown 2010, cited under Postmodernism). Cohen 1993 suggests that At Swim-Two-Birds is simultaneously modernist and antimodernist and opposes reading the novel simply as postmodernist due to the importance of parody, a modernist trope. Dobbins 2009 takes a similar approach to At Swim-Two-Birds and argues that the novel embodies the theme of idleness, which he suggests is a distinctive feature of Irish modernism. In his essay, Henry 1990 also sees O’Brien as a modernist and looks to the importance of folklore in the novel. Hughes 2009 reads O’Brien in dialogue with T. S. Eliot and its antiauthoritarian foundation. Taaffe 2004 argues that At Swim-Two-Birds is “impeccably modernist” (p. 254). Keith Booker has published extensively on O’Brien. Booker 1993 argues that O’Brien sees disorder as inherent and necessary in the world and compares his aesthetic to W. B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett, and James Joyce. Booker 1991 compares O’Brien to Franz Kafka and Jorge Luis Borges and reads O’Brien’s novel in the context of Nietzschean philosophy.

  • Booker, M. Keith. “Science, Philosophy, and ‘The Third Policeman’: Flann O’Brien and the Epistemology of Futility.” South Atlantic Review 56.4 (November 1991): 37–56.

    DOI: 10.2307/3200520Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Reads O’Brien’s text in the context of Nietzschean philosophy and suggests that the novel exposes the flaws in Cartesian epistemology. Furthermore, Booker writes that the third policeman, Fox, personifies the elusiveness of truth. Compares O’Brien to Franz Kafka and Jorge Luis Borges. Available online by subscription.

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  • Booker, M. Keith. “The Dalkey Archive: Flann O’Brien’s Critique of Mastery.” Irish University Review 23.2 (Autumn–Winter 1993): 269–285.

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    Reads The Dalkey Archive as Menippean satire, overthrowing “mastery” of Irish institutions, particularly the Church, as well as rejecting the “mastery” of James Joyce over the novel form. Argues that O’Brien sees disorder as inherent and necessary. Comparisons to Yeats, Beckett, and Joyce are particularly relevant. Close reading provides a lucid introduction to O’Brien’s technique. Available online by subscription.

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  • Cohen, David. “An Atomy of the Novel: Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds.” Twentieth Century Literature 39.2 (Summer 1993): 208–229.

    DOI: 10.2307/441839Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Suggests that At Swim-Two-Birds is simultaneously modernist and antimodernist because it questions the process of artistic creation but does not advocate a return to tradition. Opposed to reading the novel simply as postmodernist, Cohen argues that O’Brien parodies the narrator as the narrator parodies literary canon. Based on a close reading of archival drafts of the novel; very useful for readers unable to access the archive. Available online by subscription.

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  • Dobbins, Gregory. “Constitutional Laziness and the Novel: Idleness, Irish Modernism, and Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds.” NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction 42.1 (Spring 2009): 86–108.

    DOI: 10.1215/00295132-2008-005Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Begins with the precept that Irish literature differs from other literatures in its postcolonial approach to Irish writing, including the field of modernism. Argues Irish modernism is engaged with the theme of idleness as a means of articulating “counternarratives to the progressive drive of modernization” (p. 87). Takes O’Brien’s novel as the basis for exploring the theme and supporting case for Irish modernism as a distinct movement. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Henry, P. L. “The Structure of Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds.” In Special Issue: The English of the Irish. Irish University Review 20.1 (Spring 1990): 35–40.

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    Argues that O’Brien is “clearly in the mainstream of modernist introverted fiction” (p. 38) and finds inspiration for At Swim in André Gide and Aldous Huxley’s advocacy of experimental narrators. Investigates the Gaelic aspects of the book, particularly O’Brien’s use of figures from folklore and suggests that this provides stability to O’Brien’s experiment. The relevance of myth to modernism remains unexplored. Available online by subscription.

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  • Hughes, Eamonn. “Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” In Irish Modernism: Origins, Contexts, Publics. Edited by Edwina Keown and Carol Taaffe, 111–130. Oxford and New York: Peter Lang, 2009.

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    Reads At Swim as a dialogue with Walter Benjamin and T. S. Eliot in addressing the theme of authority. Argues that At Swim is “anti-authoritarian in both Irish and European contexts” (p. 115), even regarding it as anti-Fascist. Is ambivalent on the question of whether O’Brien is modernist or postmodernist; opts for the term “(post-) modernist.”

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  • Taaffe, Carol. “‘Tell Me This, Do You Ever Open a Book at All?’: Portraits of the Reader in Brian O’Nolan’s At Swim-Two-Birds.” Irish University Review 34.2 (Autumn–Winter 2004): 247-260.

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    Similar in approach to John Nash’s James Joyce and the Act of Reception (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006), Taaffe analyzes the effect of O’Nolan’s implied readers on the text and looks at his satire of contemporary readership. Accessibly written and lightly contextualized. Argues At Swim is impeccably modernist at the same time as it satirizes literary modernism. Available online by subscription.

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Liam O’Flaherty

Cahalan 1991 is a useful sourcebook, as it includes excerpts from essays by Liam O’Flaherty (b. 1896–d. 1984) that are suggestive of a modernist aesthetic. Cronin 2003 looks at the “modern” style of O’Flaherty’s writing in the Irish language and further informs the analysis in Kiberd 2005 (cited under Poetry) of modernism in the two Irish literatures. Donnelly 1974 looks at the theme of degeneracy in O’Flaherty’s fiction, which is an important aspect of Irish modernism. Doyle 1971 compares O’Flaherty to James Joyce but treads the boundary between considering O’Flaherty as a modernist and an understanding of him as a naturalist, indebted to Émile Zola and Thomas Hardy. Friberg 1996 focuses on the fracture between worlds and psyches in O’Flaherty’s fiction, particularly with reference to his “City Novels,” and is highly suggestive of a modernist aesthetic. O’Brien 1973 argues that O’Flaherty defies generic classification, but his analysis of O’Flaherty’s style suggests that O’Flaherty should be considered an Irish modernist. Sheeran 1976 categorizes O’Flaherty as a realist but, like Friberg 1996, focuses on the theme of disharmony and suggests that his best work occurs at fractures in history and language. Zneimer 1970 argues that O’Flaherty rejects the conventions of Revivalist literature, and his discussion of the theme of alienation similarly builds a strong case for the reappraisal of O’Flaherty as a modernist.

  • Cahalan, James M. Liam O’Flaherty: A Study of the Short Fiction. Boston: Twayne, 1991.

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    In three parts, this study includes a thematic critical analysis of O’Flaherty’s fiction, articles and letters from O’Flaherty, and critical responses from O’Flaherty’s contemporaries. Cahalan interprets rural settings as influenced by Continental naturalism while maintaining life-affirming romanticism. Criticism is often lacking in sophistication, is most useful as a sourcebook. Excerpts from O’Flaherty’s essays, particularly “National Energy,” are suggestive of modernist tendencies.

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  • Cronin, John. “Liam O’Flaherty and Dúil.” New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua 7.1 (Spring 2003): 45–55.

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    Begins with a contemporary debate over O’Flaherty’s decision to write in English rather than Irish and ideas about the language’s suitability for the modern novel. Through a close reading of O’Flaherty’s collection of short stories in Dúil, Cronin’s comparison of the Irish and English versions suggests that the Irish is more starkly modern than O’Flaherty’s often florid English translations. Available online by subscription.

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  • Donnelly, Brian. “A Nation Gone Wrong: Liam O’Flaherty’s Vision of Modern Ireland.” Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 63.249 (Spring 1974): 71–81.

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    Argues that O’Flaherty believed that post–Civil War Ireland was a degenerate nation, characterized by mass migration to the cities and the separation of people from the natural world. Focuses on O’Flaherty’s best-known novel, The Informer, but argues this is present in all of O’Flaherty’s urban novels. Draws on physical descriptions of the protagonist and the cityscape. Presents comparisons with James Joyce and Franz Kafka. Available online by subscription.

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  • Doyle, Paul A. Liam O’Flaherty. New York: Twayne, 1971.

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    Begins with Sean O’Faolain’s assertion that Joyce and O’Flaherty are central to the 20th-century Irish novel. Compares The Informer with Ulysses’ Nighttown, but also sees O’Flaherty’s work as indebted to the naturalism of Émile Zola and Thomas Hardy.

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  • Friberg, Hedda. An Old Order and a New: The Split World of Liam O’Flaherty’s Novels. Studia Anglistica Upsaliensia 95. Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala University, 1996.

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    Readable and comprehensive appraisal of O’Flaherty’s autobiographies and novels. Focuses on the representation of disjointedness of the old-world psychology of the peasant and the new civilization taking shape. Surveys the reception of O’Flaherty by figures such as W. B. Yeats and Francis Stuart. O’Flaherty as modernist is not addressed; however, the focus on the fracture between worlds and psyches, particularly with reference to “City Novels” is highly suggestive.

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  • O’Brien, James H. Liam O’Flaherty. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1973.

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    Short biography giving a context of O’Flaherty’s life and autobiographical writings in the first chapter. Appraises novels in chapter 2; suggests O’Flaherty escapes generic classification. Divides his novels into those that discuss “roots of Irish psyche,” the Irish revolution, and the “psyche of the new Ireland” (p. 37). O’Flaherty’s sparse style consistently remarked upon as a means of penetrating experience.

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  • Sheeran, Patrick F. The Novels of Liam O’Flaherty: A Study in Romantic Realism. Dublin: Wolfhound, 1976.

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    Interprets O’Flaherty as a realist rather than a modernist. Chapter 8 on his critical heritage is useful for understanding different interpretations of his work by contemporaries and later critics. Close readings focus on the theme of disharmony and suggests the best work occurs at fractures in history and language. Insists on regionalist interpretation of Western romances, including The Black Soul. Considers “historical romances” (p. 203) and “Dublin thrillers” (p. 259) separately.

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  • Zneimer, John. The Literary Vision of Liam O’Flaherty. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1970.

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    Situates O’Flaherty as inheritor of the tradition of national literature embodied in the Irish Revival and argues that he rejects that vision. Emphasis on O’Flaherty’s depiction of alienated individual implicitly situates him as modernist writer, although this term is not deployed. More sophisticated than, but similar to, J. H. Natterstad’s Francis Stuart (Cranbury, NJ: Associated University Presses, 1974) in its depiction of moments of religious crisis, not discussed as modernist existentialism.

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George Russell

Nash 1998 briefly draws comparisons between the modernism and mysticism of George Russell (b. 1867–d. 1935, who also used the pseudonym A.E.) and that of English and Welsh writers. McAteer 2000 looks at the impact of Russell’s spiritualism on his rejection of urban life and his privileging of the rural, an important theme in current considerations of British modernism. Kuch 1986 compares the interests of the friends and contrasts their attitudes to the national and international, an important tension in considerations of Irish modernism. Allen 2003 focuses on Russell’s vision of the role of periodicals in realizing a new Ireland, a theme that is closely related to the place of Little Magazines in the development of modernism more generally.

  • Allen, Nicholas. George Russell (AE) and the New Ireland, 1905–30. Dublin: Four Courts, 2003.

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    Examines Russell’s vision for Ireland and the role of periodicals in realizing that vision. Considers the spiritualism that lay behind Russell’s ideas of the nation and reform, particularly the role of the artist as the agent for change in modern society. Does not address the idea of modernism explicitly but considers the themes of apocalypse, hostility to mechanization, and abstraction.

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  • Kuch, Peter. Yeats and A.E.: “The Antagonism That Unites Dear Friends.” Gerrads Cross, UK: Colin Smythe, 1986.

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    Examines the friendship of Yeats and Russell, from their first acquaintance at the art schools in Dublin to their quarrel over the role of an Irish theater in Dublin. Kuch casts Yeats as an international experimentalist and Russell as a provincial. This contrast highlights a central issue in the definition of Irish modernism: the relationship between national and international perspectives.

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  • McAteer, Michael. “A Split Unity: Gender and History in A.E.’s Poetry.” Irish Studies Review 8.2 (2000): 179–194.

    DOI: 10.1080/713674239Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Considers A.E.’s contradictory attitudes to transcendence, who saw it as either a means of escaping the material world or a means of achieving consciousness beyond materialism and spiritualism. Relates this to his attitude to history, which contains an implicit attitude to gender whereby empiricism is masculine and spiritualism feminine. Connects this to A.E.’s rejection of urban life for the rural. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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  • Nash, Catherine. “Visionary Geographies: Designs for Developing Ireland.” History Workshop Journal 45 (Spring 1998): 49–78.

    DOI: 10.1093/hwj/1998.45.49Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Investigates A.E.’s interweaving of mysticism with plans for rural reform in his writing and painting, particularly in relation to ideas of masculinity, nature, and nationhood. In footnotes, Nash draws comparisons between modernism and mysticism at work in A.E. with the interests of English and Welsh preservationists in the interwar period. Modernism is not addressed overtly in the body of the article. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

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Francis Stuart

The introduction to Barrington 2000 surveys Francis Stuart’s (b. 1902–d. 2000) novels and compares the politics evident in his work to the attitudes of W. B. Yeats and Ezra Pound. Caterson 1997 compares Stuart to James Joyce and Samuel Beckett and suggests that Stuart deliberately situates himself as a writer of “minor literature” (p. 91). Hamilton 1996 is highly personal in tone but is nonetheless insightful for its analysis of Stuart’s style and its positioning of him as an Irish and a European writer. Honan 1988 looks at myth and religion in Stuart and raises compelling comparisons with T. S. Eliot. Natterstad 1974 casts Stuart as a naturalist rather than a modernist writer but addresses modernist themes such as degeneracy and contamination. McCartney 2000 focuses on style and form and interprets Stuart’s themes in light of a modernist aesthetic.

  • Barrington, Brendan, ed. The Wartime Broadcasts of Francis Stuart, 1942–1944. Dublin: Lilliput, 2000.

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    Thorough introduction situates Stuart’s World War II politics in light of his 1924 Lecture on Nationality and Culture. Surveys Stuart’s novels and his autobiographical volume, Things to Live For (New York: Macmillan, 1935). Dismisses the relevance of interrogating the depth of Stuart’s fascism, focusing instead on his hostility to democracy and modernity. Compares these views to modernists such as W. B. Yeats and Ezra Pound; similarly treats anti-Semitism.

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  • Caterson, S. J. “Joyce, the Künstlerroman and Minor Literature: Francis Stuart’s Black List, Section H.’” In Special Issue: Literature, Criticism, Theory. Irish University Review 27.1 (Spring–Summer 1997): 87–97.

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    Compares Black List, Section H to James Joyce’s Portrait as autobiographical fiction. Substantiates a stylistic comparison with a comparison of their biographies. Contrasts Stuart’s use of autobiography with Samuel Beckett’s and compares Stuart’s narrator to Marcel Proust’s, as described by Beckett. Argues Stuart situates himself as a participant in “minor literature,” writing against canonical structures, particularly in his “estrangement from established forms of representation” (p. 91). Available online by subscription.

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  • Hamilton, Hugo. “Understanding Francis Stuart.” Writing Ulster 4 (1996): 69–76.

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    Considers Stuart among writers of the postwar generation, such as Samuel Beckett, who had to confront “moral emptiness” (p. 69). Carefully positions him as an Irish and European writer. Focuses on the idea of silence and the use of words to convey silence and absence of meaning. Very personal in tone and shifts toward a defense of Stuart’s politics near the end of the essay. Available online by subscription.

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  • Honan, Kevin. “Refloating the Ark: Figural Motifs in the Writing of Francis Stuart.” Irish Review 4 (Spring 1988): 66–72.

    DOI: 10.2307/29735344Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Interrogates the theme of disruption in Stuart’s fiction and its intersections with the possibility of redemption. Describes Stuart’s use of Christian imagery as mythology and draws from similar scholarship on T. S. Eliot. Argues that later novels are more sophisticated, looks particularly at Memorial and suggests the Passion is the structural model for the book. Also considers briefly Black List, Section H. Available online by subscription.

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  • McCartney, Anne. Francis Stuart: Face to Face, A Critical Study. Belfast: Institute of Irish Studies, Queen’s University, 2000.

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    Focuses on style and form of Stuart’s novels. Compares Stuart to Joyce, Beckett, and Proust. Sees his questioning of reality, his exploration of consciousness, and inversion of conventional value systems in light of modernist preoccupations. Similarly, instability of the text and use of imagery and metafiction are interpreted as modernist. Rejects the biographical and psychoanalytic readings in Natterstad 1974. Very useful bibliography.

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  • Natterstad, Jerry H. Francis Stuart. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1974.

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    Accessible, brief biography of Stuart written with a personal tone and sympathetic appraisal of his political and private life. Most useful for chapter 3, “The Dark Night,” which gives a biographical context for Stuart’s novels. Strong comparisons to Fyodor Dostoevsky and Thomas Hardy, naturalist rather than modernist writers; raises but engages lightly with themes relevant to modernism, such as existential crisis and fear of disease.

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Jack B. Yeats

Cusack 1997 presents an early argument for the conjoining of modernist and nationalist discourses and focuses on Jack Yeats’s (b. 1871–d. 1957) drama, particular the fluidity and circularity of time. McGuinness 1991 also addresses the theme of circularity and argues that this is related to a Celtic mythology. Purser 1991 never discusses modernism explicitly, but the comparisons that he draws among Jack Yeats, Marcel Proust, and William Faulkner are provocative for studies of Irish modernism. His book serves as an excellent introduction to the breadth of Jack Yeats’s work. Rose 1972 contextualizes Jack Yeats’s work in light of European movements while arguing that he remained independent of those movements; this is highly suggestive for studies of Irish modernism. Scott 2008 asserts that Jack Yeats worked within a modernist idiom; the essays included represent some of the most recent work on his place in the development of Irish modernism. O’Doherty 1955 has been included as a contrast to Scott, because O’Doherty exhibits the critical reticence to view Jack Yeats as a modernist; this perspective is no longer predominant but is still in circulation.

  • Cusack, Tricia. “‘Tis the Wild Things That Have the Real Beauty’: Jack B. Yeats, Modernity and Other Worlds.” Irish Review 21 (Autumn–Winter 1997): 75–91.

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    Argues that Jack B. Yeats’s painting and drama of the 1930s to 1950s exhibit a conjoining of nationalist and modernist discourses. See Cusack in Scott 2008 (Chapter 6) for a discussion of modernism and nationalism in painting. Here, Cusack looks to Yeats’s use of time in his plays, rejection of linear progression, and use of classical devices, such as the Greek chorus. Situates Yeats in a “modernist-primitivist discourse” (p. 83). Available online subscription.

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  • McGuinness, Nora A. The Literary Universes of Jack B. Yeats. Washington, DC: Catholic University of America Press, 1991.

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    Argues that Jack B. Yeats advocates abandonment of rationalism and the conscious self in order to achieve a transcendent view of existence. Sees Yeats’s work developing in the direction of modernism in response to historical and political pressures, particularly after 1922; elsewhere defines him as a modernist. Interesting but not wholly convincing argument that circular narratives are tied to Celtic traditions.

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  • O’Doherty, Brian. “Humanism in Art: A Study of Jack B. Yeats.” University Review 1.5 (Summer 1955): 21–26.

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    Brief article, very useful for illustrating negative attitudes toward modernism and critical reticence to viewing Irish artists as modernists, in favor of a focus on the national role of art and artists. In contrast to more recent criticism, sees Jack B. Yeats as romantic or modern expressionist, but not as modernist. Available online by subscription.

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  • Purser, John W. The Literary Works of Jack B. Yeats. Gerrards Cross, UK: Colin Smythe, 1991.

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    Admires but emends first edition of Pyle’s Jack B. Yeats: A Biography (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1970) based on new source material. Chapter 1, “Life and Style,” compares Jack B. Yeats’s idiosyncrasies in spelling and punctuation to those of Marcel Proust and William Faulkner. Modernism is never discussed but can be seen as implicit. Subsequent chapters address contexts of theater history and the war for understanding his work; gives close readings of plays and novels.

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  • Rose, Marilyn Gaddis. Jack B. Yeats: Painter and Poet. Bern, Switzerland: Herbert Lang, 1972.

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    Concise, insightful contextualization of Jack B. Yeats’s painting in major European movements, such as expressionism and surrealism, while suggesting that he operated independently from those movements. Examines the theories of art expressed in his drama, particularly The Green Wave. Considers contemporaries W. B. Yeats, J. M. Synge, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett to be Yeats’s counterparts to their representation of subjects such as the tramp.

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  • Scott, Yvonne, ed. Jack B. Yeats: Old and New Departures. Dublin: Four Courts, 2008.

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    Preface unambiguously asserts that Jack B. Yeats combined modernist idiom with local and personal themes. Chapter 6, “‘A Living Art,’” by Tricia Cusack interrogates the relationship between nationalism and modernity/modernization in Yeats’s Western landscapes. Chapter 7, “Chaos Theory,” by Scott looks at modernism, expressionism, and theories of beauty and the grotesque. Chapter 3, “Divorcing Jack,” by Róisín Kennedy considers Samuel Beckett’s and Thomas MacGreevy’s reception of Yeats and emphasizes modernist technique over nationalist sentiment.

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W. B. Yeats

Bedient 2008 contrasts the attitudes of W. B. Yeats (b. 1865–d. 1939) and Jack B. Yeats toward modernism and argues that Jack Yeats embraced the movement to a greater extent. Several of the entries compare W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound. Craig 1981 is particularly important for its attention to Yeats’s idea of the Great Memory and its relation to Irish history, especially in the controversial period of the 1930s. North 1991 also discusses the controversial 1930s; he devotes a chapter to Yeats’s attitude to cultural nationalism and suggests that it influenced his embrace of fascism. Longenbach 1988 is a classic text that looks at the influence of the writers Pound, Eliot, and W. B. Yeats on each other; although claiming that their work was foundational to Anglo-American modernism, it also focuses on W. B. Yeats’s place in the development of Irish modernism. Smith 1994 suggests that he came late to modernism but is nonetheless a modernist, particularly in his ideas about myth. This view is contrasted in Stead 1986, which argues that W. B. Yeats was a modern but not a modernist. Maxwell 1977 should be regarded as a classic, as its entertaining tone carries an intense interrogation of W. B. Yeats’s understanding of modernism and looks to his interest in the ancient, primitive, and supernatural.

  • Bedient, Calvin. The Yeats Brothers and Modernism’s Love of Motion. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2008.

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    Introduction sets out a convincing argument for reading W. B. Yeats as a modernist poet, although he remained resistant to formlessness that characterizes high modernism. Contrasts W. B. Yeats with Jack B. Yeats who gave himself more fully to the movement. Each chapter considers the Yeats brothers separately in relation to a theme, such as “Performance.” Handsome color plates of Jack Yeats’s paintings.

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  • Craig, Cairns. Yeats, Eliot, Pound, and the Politics of Poetry: Richest to the Richest. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1981.

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    Equates the politics of W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound in the 1930s and argues that they constitute the “old modernism” (p. 18) in their conviction that reality resided in art, not in the individual’s experience of it. See particularly Chapters 4 and 7, which deal specifically with Yeats and the idea of memory, especially the idea of the Great Memory.

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  • Longenbach, James. Stone Cottage: Pound, Yeats, and Modernism. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1988.

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    Analyzes work undertaken during the three winters W. B. Yeats and Ezra Pound spent in Stone Cottage, Ashdown Wood, Sussex, England. Sees their relationship as foundational to Anglo-American modernism because through each other they encountered other literary monoliths, such as James Joyce and T. S. Eliot. Casts their association as, in Pound’s phrase, a “secret society” (p. x), that further enabled the “unfortunate excesses” (p. xi) of W. B. Yeats’s On the Boiler (Dublin: Cuala, 1938) and Pound’s Jefferson and/or Mussolini (London: S. Nott, 1935).

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  • Maxwell, D. E. S. “Yeats and Modernism.” Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 3.1 (June 1977): 14–31.

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    Entertaining essay beginning with attitudes to modernism in the 1920s and extending to a definition of the term that sees James Joyce as its exemplar. Argues that W. B. Yeats’s universalizing of personal experience fits the modernist poetic. Interrogates Yeats’s understanding of modernism. Looks to his interest in the ancient, primitive, and supernatural. Emphasizes parody, sexual explicitness, and violence in the middle and late poems. Superb.

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  • North, Michael. The Political Aesthetic of Yeats, Eliot, and Pound. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991.

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    Defines aesthetic modernism as antagonistic to rationalism. Highlights contradictory tenets held by modernists. Opposed to Stead 1986 and finds commonality in the use of history by W. B. Yeats, T. S. Eliot, and Ezra Pound to combat modernity. Poets considered separately. The chapter on Yeats is a chronological appraisal of his work with regard to his attitude to cultural nationalism. Argues that Yeats embraced fascism.

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  • Smith, Stan. The Origins of Modernism: Eliot, Pound, Yeats and the Rhetorics of Renewal. New York and London: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1994.

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    Follows T. S. Eliot’s assertion that W. B. Yeats became a modernist about 1917. Considers Yeats as a latecomer who was nonetheless reflective of modernism’s focus on myth as a means by which to cope with the instability of the modern world. Yeats discussed in three chapters: “Writing a Will: Yeats’s Ancestral Voices,” “Forgetfulness and the Narrative Order,” and “The Living World for Text: Yeats and the Book of the People.” Blends historical context and close reading successfully.

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  • Stead, C. K. Pound, Yeats, Eliot, and the Modernist Movement. London: Macmillan, 1986.

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    Argues that W. B. Yeats is a modern but not a modernist. Contrasts his work with Ezra Pound, T. S. Eliot, and W. H. Auden. Analyzes the various ways in which Yeats, Eliot, and Pound proceeded from the symbolist movement. Suggests that Yeats’s poetry is more akin to that of Thomas Hardy.

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Theories of Modernity and Modernization

Cleary 2004 provides the most useful survey of critical debates over the nature of modernization, modernity, and postcolonial discourse and is transparent in his biases. Readers looking for a more extended analysis will be well served by Cleary 2006. Deane 1997 is an important book in the history of criticism as it sparked major debates and inquiries into modernity and modernization represented here. Lloyd 2008 builds directly on Deane 1997, and his theory is useful for understanding the concurrence of realism and modernism.

  • Cleary, Joe. “Introduction: Ireland and Modernity.” In The Cambridge Companion to Modern Irish Culture. Edited by Joe Cleary and Claire Connolly, 1–21. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2004.

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    Useful context for understanding critical debates over the nature of modernization and modernity, particularly in the context of postcolonial discourse. Considers geographical and cultural debates relating to the source of modernity: the assumption that it moves from the center to the periphery.

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  • Cleary, Joe. Outrageous Fortune: Capital and Culture in Modern Ireland. Dublin: Field Day, 2006.

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    Good introduction to current Irish literary debates; however, readers should be aware of Cleary’s bias toward postcolonialism as he argues that revisionism is tied to a bourgeois understanding of the past, which neglects leftist discourses. Argues that naturalism is the countermovement to romanticism in Irish literary history because Irish writing was, generally, not radically experimental.

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  • Deane, Seamus. Strange Country: Modernity and Nationhood in Irish Writing since 1790. Oxford: Clarendon, 1997.

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    Considers Edmund Burke’s Reflections on the Revolution in France (London: J. Dodsley, 1790) a foundational text for understanding the tension between modernity and tradition in Irish literature, particularly in antirevolutionary writing. In the context of Irish modernism, “Boredom and Apocalypse: A National Paradigm” is the most useful chapter, particularly the discussion of Flann O’Brien, for illustrating the ruptures (or schisms) in literary history.

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  • Lloyd, David. Irish Times: Temporalities of Modernity. Dublin: Field Day, 2008.

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    Builds on the tradition/modernity paradigm in Deane 1997 to suggest that there is a plurality of temporal dimensions that exist simultaneously in memory. Emphasizes the medievalism present in Joyce (Chapter 4) and the Irish revolutionary James Connolly’s conception of “Celtic communism” (p. 101) (Chapter 5). Considers the Irish Great Famine as the foundational moment for Irish modernity.

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The City

The city is essential to the modernist movement, and Irish modernism is no exception. Ehrlich 2002 considers Dublin alongside Paris and Zurich as a city with distinctive modernist currents. Corcoran 1997 considers the representation of Dublin in the work by James Joyce, Francis Stuart, and Austin Clarke, whom he does not discuss as modernists but who have been considered modernist by other entries in Irish modernism. Kiberd 2005 argues that Dublin’s modernism differs from that of London, Berlin, or Paris because, in his view, Dublin is a postcolonial city, with more in common with Buenos Aires. This postcolonial approach also underpins Rubenstein 2010, which examines the relationship between the infrastructure of the Irish State and the imagination of writers, including Joyce and Flann O’Brien. Harding 2003 sets out a model for transatlantic modernism that incorporates Dublin into the metropolitan axis. Joyce’s Ulysses is central to many appraisals of modernism and the city, and Hegglund 2003 has been selected for inclusion here because it argues that Joyce’s use of mapping engages with the “political geography of Anglo-Irish relations” (p. 165). Gibbons 1991 looks at the effect of the cinematic technique of montage on Joyce’s representation of the city and also considers the campaign by John Eglinton for a cinema in the Irish capital.

  • Corcoran, Neil. “Views of Dublin.” In After Yeats and Joyce: Reading Modern Irish Literature. By Neil Corcoran, 100–130. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

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    Considers representations of the city of Dublin as a theme in modern Irish literature, not modernism, but writers appraised include James Joyce, Francis Stuart, and Austin Clarke, who have been considered as modernists elsewhere. Corcoran’s situation of these writers in a tradition of writing about the city provides a solid context for further investigation of the theme as it relates to modernism.

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  • Ehrlich, Heyward. “James Joyce’s Four-Gated City of Modernisms.” In Joyce and the City: The Significance of Place. Edited by Michael Begnal, 3–17. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2002.

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    Discusses the importance of Dublin, Trieste, Zurich, and Paris as cities with distinctive modernist currents, which are integral to the study of Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, although it focuses mostly on Ulysses. Considers the Irish Literary Revival a local variety of modernism. Compares James Joyce with T. S. Eliot throughout.

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  • Gibbons, Luke. “Montage, Modernism and the City.” Irish Review 10 (Spring 1991): 1–6.

    DOI: 10.2307/29735577Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Begins with the campaign by John Eglinton for a cinema in Dublin and interrogates the effect of cinematic techniques on James Joyce’s depiction of the city. Considers the Whig view of Irish history as a series of external shocks and relates this to Sergei Eisenstein’s development of montage. Compares Charles Dickens’s influence on Eisenstein to that of Dion Boucicault on Joyce.

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  • Harding, Desmond. Writing the City: Urban Visions & Literary Modernism. New York: Routledge, 2003.

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    Sets out a model for transatlantic modernism that incorporates Dublin into the metropolitan axis. Begins by outlining the role of the city. Chapter 2 analyzes Dubliners. Chapter 3 focuses exclusively on “The Dead.” Chapter 4 looks at the relationship between the artist and the city in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. The final chapter compares Ulysses with John Dos Passos’s Manhattan Transfer.

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  • Hegglund, Jon. “Ulysses and the Rhetoric of Cartography.” Twentieth-Century Literature 49.2 (Summer 2003): 164–192.

    DOI: 10.2307/3176000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Challenges the scholarly assumption that Joyce’s rendering of Dublin arises from “a modernist aesthetic strategy” (p. 165) lending legitimacy to the novel. Notes that the maps Joyce used in the composition of Ulysses were from a British Ordnance Survey and therefore reflect “an imperial gaze” (p. 165). Relates this to a changing cityscape as a result of war. Argues this use of mapping engages with the political geography of Anglo-Irish relations. Available online by subscription.

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  • Kiberd, Declan. “The City in Irish Culture.” In The Irish Writer and the World. By Declan Kiberd, 289–302. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2005.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511485923.019Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Surveys Dublin in literature from Jonathan Swift to Roddy Doyle with a particular emphasis on modernism. Argues that Dublin’s modernism differs from that of London, Berlin, or Paris and is more comparable to colonies “like Bombay or Buenos Aires” (p. 294) going so far as to argue that “Dublin was a classic Third World capital” (p. 295). Suggests Irish modernism is a mixture of backwardness and forwardness, key to producing James Joyce.

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  • Rubenstein, Michael. Public Works: Infrastructure, Irish Modernism, and the Postcolonial. Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2010.

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    An innovative and accessibly written account of the relationship between the infrastructure of the Irish Free State and the imagination of James Joyce, Flann O’Brien, and Denis Johnston, who are selected as exemplars of different components in Irish society. The final chapter compares postcolonial Ireland to postcolonial Caribbean literature, such as Patrick Chamoiseau’s Texaco (Paris: Gallimard, 1992).

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History

Allen 2009 defines modernism as an experimental art of resistance and reads the work of W. B. Yeats, Jack B. Yeats, and Samuel Beckett, from this perspective. Hansen 2009 suggests that Irish modernism grew out of the gothic literature of the 19th century rather than solely from the (continental European) symbolist movement. Miller 2002 defines modernism as a movement that engages the individual and collective historical imagination in order to reconfigure the relationship of the present to the past. This relates to the argument by Hansen 2009, although Miller 2002 takes a less theoretically entrenched view and focuses on W. B. Yeats and James Joyce. Castle 2001 looks at the importance of anthropology on the development of modernism in Ireland and uses the convenient Anglo-Irish versus Catholic-Irish discourse to contrast W. B. Yeats, Joyce, and their different attitudes toward The City and rural Ireland. Foster 1993 inverts T. S. Eliot’s statement that W. B. Yeats’s history is the history of his time to examine the way in which Irish history shaped his poetry The emphasis of Foster 1993 on the importance of the Irish gothic literature is also suggestive for the analysis of Irish modernism.

  • Allen, Nicholas. Modernism, Ireland and Civil War. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2009.

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    Defines modernism as “experimental art that challenges a state whose institutions [. . .] encode other persistent forms of regulation” (p. 5). Argues that Finnegans Wake contains remnants of the Irish Civil War. Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars (London: Macmillan, 1926) is considered as a flashpoint for anti-imperial protest. Suggests W. B. Yeats’s A Vision (New York: Macmillan, 1926) is an alternative vision of independence. Also considers countercultural literary journals, Samuel Beckett’s novels, and Jack B. Yeats’s art as visions of alternative republics.

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  • Castle, Gregory. Modernism and the Celtic Revival. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511485015Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that anthropology is key to the development of modernism in Ireland. Heavily reliant on postcolonial theory, particularly Terry Eagleton. Claims “Anglo-Irish” (p. 3) W. B. Yeats and J. M. Synge used colonial methods of cultural production compared to “Catholic-Irish” (p. 6) James Joyce whose critique of the Revival “guaranteed its continued relevance” (p. 5). Suggests that the Revivalists’ primitivism is linked to the modernist search for authenticity to combat the modern condition. Almost exclusively focused on rural, or colonial, Ireland versus metropolitan Ireland.

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  • Foster, R. F. “Protestant Magic: W. B. Yeats and the Spell of Irish History.” In Paddy and Mr Punch: Connections in Irish and English History. By R. F. Foster, 212–232. London: Allen Lane, 1993.

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    Inverts T. S. Eliot’s statement that W. B. Yeats’s history is the history of his time in order to examine the way in which Irish history shaped Yeats. Addresses the various social backgrounds of Irish Protestants and the particular history of the Yeats family, especially the insecurity of the middle class. Considers Yeats’s interest in the supernatural stemming from 19th-century writers such as Bram Stoker. Offers a more manageable address of the Gothic tradition than in Hansen 2009.

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  • Hansen, Jim. Terror and Irish Modernism: The Gothic Tradition from Burke to Beckett. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2009.

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    Heavily theorized argument based on postcolonial and gender discourses. Posits that the “masculine gender anxiety” (p. 4) of Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett is a product of the “Anglo-Irish Gothic’s confrontation with Britain’s colonial politics” (p. 4). More convincingly suggests that Irish modernism grows out of the gothic tropes of 19th-century Ireland rather than springing solely from European symbolism. Structured as a survey, but not a useful introduction to the theme due to its theoretical entrenchment.

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  • Miller, Nicholas Andrew. Modernism, Ireland, and the Erotics of Memory. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2002.

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    Defines modernism as a movement that engages the individual and collective historical imagination in order to reconfigure the relationship of the present to the past. Divided into two parts: “The Erotics of Memory” and “The Spectacles of History.” Focus on the literature (W. B. Yeats and James Joyce) is secondary to the theoretical discourse.

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Drama and Performance

Worth 1978 focuses on the importance of the symbolist movement, particularly Arthur Symons, on the development of W. B. Yeats’s drama. Flannery 1996 also focuses on Yeats and considers the importance of myth in Yeats’s subjects and staging techniques. Reynolds 2007 is the only full-length study of modernism and Irish drama; it provides a very focused definition of modernism generally, and Irish modernism specifically, and applies these definitions very lucidly to performance history in the Irish context. Clarke and Ferrar 1979 is a concise, entertaining survey of the exemplar of modernist theatrical enterprise in Ireland: the Dublin Drama League. Quinn 1990 looks particularly at the theme of myth in Irish drama and provides a starting point for understanding the way in which major themes in literary modernism were incorporated into theater. Vandevelde 2006 provides a critique of realist interpretations of Irish drama and is related to the study of Modernity and Modernization.

  • Clarke, Brenna Katz, and Harold Ferrar. The Dublin Drama League, 1918–1941. Dublin: Dolmen, 1979.

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    Short history of the Dublin Drama League. Contrasts its experimentalism with the programme of the Abbey Theatre. Argues that it created an audience for European drama, which enabled the foundation of the Gate Theatre. Very useful appendix comprised of a comprehensive list of productions (including plays by T. S. Eliot, Eugene O’Neill, and Anton Chekhov) with cast lists.

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  • Flannery, James W. “Staging the Phantasmagorical: The Theatrical Challenges and Rewards of W. B. Yeats.” Irish University Review 26.1 (Spring–Summer 1996): 92–106.

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    Considers W. B. Yeats’s idea of theater as the location for staging mystical drama, which used symbols (drawn from universal, mythic experience) to elevate the audience to higher consciousness. Compares Yeats to Bertolt Brecht in rejection of the personal. Argues that Yeats sought to create new forms rather than dismissing all preexisting forms as meaningless. Suggests Yeats is closer to a postmodernist than to a modernist sensibility. Available online by subscription.

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  • Quinn, Kathleen A. “Hearts Turned to Stone: Myth in Modern Irish Drama.” Canadian Journal of Irish Studies 16.1 (July 1990): 15–23.

    DOI: 10.2307/25512805Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Considers portrayals in drama of stone images in Irish politics and literature. Analyzes plays by W. B. Yeats, Lady Gregory, Frank O’Connor, Denis Johnston, and Paul Vincent Carroll. Connects these uses to the importance of stones in mythology. Although Quinn does not address modernism explicitly, the scope of her study relates to the emerging discourse on Irish modernism. Available online by subscription.

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  • Reynolds, Paige. Modernism, Drama, and the Audience for Irish Spectacle. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

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    Introduction provides a focused definition of modernism and revivalism highlighting their differences but arguing for a new definition of Irish modernism, a practice in which literary and artistic figures drew from both categories in their work. Focuses on audience behavior, attitudes to audiences and the “masses,” in order to interrogate the idea of a national culture.

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  • Vandevelde, Karen. “‘What’s All the Stir About?’ Gerald MacNamara, Synge, and the Early Abbey Theatre.” New Hibernia Review / Irish Éireannach Nua 10.3 (Autumn 2006): 108–121.

    DOI: 10.1353/nhr.2006.0065Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Convincingly argues that Gerald MacNamara’s play, The Mist that Does Be on the Bog, provides a critique of Irish drama and the limitations of realism. Suggests that this understanding is based in the international context of modernity and realism as well as debates in Ireland over the role of the national theater. Suggests MacNamara’s play references J. M. Synge’s Riders to the Sea.

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  • Worth, Katherine. The Irish Drama of Europe from Yeats to Beckett. London: Athlone, 1978.

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    Groundbreaking work that considers the European contexts impacting on Irish drama, particularly Maurice Maeterlinck. Chapter 1, “Towards Modernism,” analyzes the importance of Arthur Symons and the symbolist movement; chapter 2, “The Syntax Achieved,” looks to the staging techniques developed by Edward Gordon Craig. Close textual analysis is combined with a useful historical context of Irish and European theater history.

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The Visual Arts

Modernism and the visual arts is the subject in which Irish modernism has been most clearly defined. Kennedy 1984 looks at Irish painters’ exposure to modernism on the Continent and considers their decision to either adopt or reject a modernist mode on returning to Ireland. Benson 1992 also looks at the historical factors in the production or suppression of Irish modernism and suggests convincingly that the acquiescence of the visual arts to the modern state is due to Ireland’s rebellion (rather than a true revolution). Kennedy 1991 is a handsomely and usefully illustrated volume; S. B. Kennedy sees modernism as rejecting the nation, as opposed to many critics cited here who work from a definition of Irish modernism that accommodates national and international interests. Kennedy 1999 challenges the argument of Kennedy 1991, as it analyzes Paul Henry’s depiction of the west of Ireland and suggests that Henry’s belief in the subjectivity of experience identifies him as a modernist, despite the national focus of his work. Arnold 1991 investigates Mainie Jellett’s intriguing interest in the relationship between Celtic art and Cubism in her search for creation of a national art. Turpin 2002 looks at the patronage of religious art in Ireland in light of hostility and sympathy to the modernist aesthetic. Armstrong 1990 is part of a new strain of criticism in word and image studies and looks at the emphasis of the Yeats brothers on Samuel Beckett’s work. Parkes 2011 also looks to the relationship between word and image and contains an important chapter on George Moore, which is particularly relevant for the study of the development of Irish modernism.

  • Armstrong, Gordon S. Samuel Beckett, W. B. Yeats, and Jack Yeats: Images and Words. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1990.

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    Suggests that Samuel Beckett’s guiding philosophical lights were the Yeats brothers. Beckett rejected W. B. Yeats’s symbolic drama and, especially in his early plays, drew from Jack B. Yeats’s expression of fundamental relationships of humans to each other and to the land. The opening chapter, “The Modernist Temper,” defines Beckett as a modernist working in the wake of James Joyce.

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  • Arnold, Bruce. Mainie Jellett and the Modern Movement in Ireland. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991.

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    Handsomely illustrated biography of Mainie Jellett that presents her as exceptional in her decision to live and work in Ireland. Particularly important for attention to Jellett’s interest in the relationship between Celtic art and Cubism in the search for a national art. Artist and critic George Russell’s hostile reception of her work, relationships between Jellett and the Yeats family, and her friendship with Elizabeth Bowen are discussed.

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  • Benson, Ciarán. “Modernism and Ireland’s Selves.” Circa 61 (January–February 1992): 18–23.

    DOI: 10.2307/25557691Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Argues that, contrary to literature’s combatant relationship with that state, visual arts were “generally acquiescent” (p. 19). Suggests convincingly that this is due to Ireland’s rebellion, not revolution, as the former is based on a desire to restore past identity. Suggests the constitution of a national “self” dominates Irish modernism and that Seán Keating and Mainie Jellett characterize competing searches for identity of the nation and of the individual.

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  • Kennedy, Brian. “R.H.A., Modernism and Living Art.” Circa 14 (January–February 1984): 27–29.

    DOI: 10.2307/25556845Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Considers Irish painters’ exposure to modernism on the Continent and their decision either to work in modernist mode outside of Ireland or to return to the country and adopt the conventions of 19th-century painting. Discusses the Royal Hibernian Academy’s active campaign against modernism and the Irish Exhibition of Living Art (1943) resulting from increasing support for modernism. Reviews the tension between ideas of nationalistic art and modernism.

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  • Kennedy, S. B. Irish Art & Modernism, 1880–1950. Belfast: Institute of Irish Studies at the Queen’s University of Belfast, 1991.

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    Handsome volume with color and black-and-white plates of works from the exhibition “Irish Art and Modernism” at the Hugh Lane Municipal Gallery of Modern Art in Dublin (1991). Scholarly text addresses both the avant-garde and the academic tradition. Contrary to Brown 2010 (cited under Postmodernism), Kennedy sees modernism and nationalism as conflicting viewpoints. Suggests that modernism can be judged as “free from polemics” (p. 2).

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  • Kennedy, S. B. “An Enduring View of Irish Identity: Paul Henry and the Realism of Fiction.” Irish Arts Review Yearbook 15 (1999): 98–107.

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    Argues that Paul Henry’s depiction of the west of Ireland influenced attitudes toward the region. Suggests that Henry’s belief in subjectivity of experience identifies him as a modernist. States that Henry was inspired by J. M. Synge, whom he encountered in Paris, and argues for intertextuality in painting as in modernist literature.

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  • Parkes, Adam. A Sense of Shock: The Impact of Impressionism on Modern British and Irish Writing. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.

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    Gives a working definition of “literary impressionism” (pp. ix–x), which he argues was shaped by engagement with movements that define modernism. Chapter 3 on George Moore is particularly relevant for Irish modernism. Integrates Moore’s response to Walter Pater’s aesthetic with contemporary questions surrounding nationalism. Epilogue on Elizabeth Bowen is brief but provocative because it addresses her biography to highlight ambiguity in her novel, The Heat of the Day (New York: Knopf, 1948).

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  • Turpin, John. “Modernism, Tradition and Debates on Religious Art in Ireland 1920–1950.” Studies: An Irish Quarterly Review 91.363 (Autumn 2002): 252–266.

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    Argues that the scholarly focus on modernist theory has resulted in a deficit of scholarship on religious art and architecture. Considers debates about the nature of religious art, such as Daniel Corkery’s objection to modern sculpture and Thomas MacGreevy’s advocacy of W. B. Yeats as Ireland’s William Blake. Discusses the importance of patronage in introducing new forms of religious art, particularly through Mainie Jellett and Evie Hone. Available online by subscription.

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Little Magazines

Rathjen 1994 suggests that the Irish magazine Dana influenced topics raised in Ulysses. Bryson 1994 looks at John Eglinton’s contributions to The Dial, an American magazine, which is important for understanding both the changes in Eglinton’s thought and the similarities between Dana and The Dial. Kearney 1988 focuses on The Bell, the Irish cultural magazine, and its place as a forum for major literary figures. Ballin 2002 compares The Irish Statesman and The Bell, particularly on how they related to international movements in culture. Kearney 1988 also looks to The Bell and the diversity of identity presented in its pages. Molloy 1991 looks at the brief collaboration of Francis Stuart and W. B. Yeats and the hostile reception of the periodical To-Morrow, which is another aspect of the hostility to modernism prevalent in Ireland, often rooted in religious views. Reynolds 2003 considers the importance of the little magazines published by W. B. Yeats to promote the Irish theater movement. In contrast to these studies, Shovlin 2003 looks at the role of periodicals in the formal development of realism and the antipastoral.

  • Ballin, Malcolm. “Transitions in Irish Miscellanies between 1923 and 1940: The Irish Statesman and the Bell.” International Journal of English Studies 2.2 (2002): 23–37.

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    Compares Sean O’Faolain’s and George Russell’s work as editors. Similarities are explored in relation to their international approach to culture and intellectual contexts. Relates their criticism to similar approaches by T. S. Eliot, F. R. Leavis, and Raymond Williams. Contrasts O’Faolain’s and Russell’s attitudes to tradition. Is concerned with situating journals in the long history of the Irish miscellany, but is nonetheless relevant to considerations of modernism.

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  • Bryson, Mary E. “Dublin Letters: John Eglinton and The Dial, 1921–1929.” Éire-Ireland 29.4 (Winter 1994): 132–148.

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    Examines John Eglinton’s work as the Irish correspondent to The Dial throughout the 1920s. Discusses his ideas about the relationship between nationality and literature, which was opposed to the stance of the Revivalists. Considers Eglinton’s reviews and criticism of figures including W. B. Yeats and James Joyce.

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  • Dana: An Irish Magazine of Independent Thought. 1904–1905.

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    This magazine was important as an initiative by Irish intellectuals to establish a cosmopolitan framework for construction of a modern Irish identity, as opposed to the construction of identity on retrospective lines. Deliberately controversial in approach, such as John Eglinton’s article on Nietzsche. Other notable contributors include George Russell (AE), George Moore, and James Joyce. The entire run of John Eglinton’s Dana is available online and downloadable via the Modernist Journals Project, hosted by Brown University and the University of Tulsa.

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  • Kearney, Richard. “Between Politics and Literature: The Irish Cultural Journal.” In Transitions: Narratives in Modern Irish Culture. By Richard Kearney, 250–268. Dublin: Wolfhound, 1988.

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    Examines the role of cultural journals in politics, focusing on the 19th century before considering The Bell, founded in 1940 by Peadar O’Donnell and Sean O’Faolain. Emphasizes the diversity of Irish identity presented in magazine and summarizes its importance as a forum for major literary figures. Contrasts the public form of the magazine with O’Faolain’s commitment to individual artistry and “aesthetic purity” (p. 263).

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  • Molloy, F. C. “Francis Stuart, W. B. Yeats and To-Morrow.” Yeats Annual 8 (1991): 214–224.

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    Examines the collaboration of W. B. Yeats and Francis Stuart. Focuses on the contested authorship of the editorial in the first issue, signed by H. Stuart and Cecil Salkeld, but written by Yeats. Looks at the reception of the periodical To-Morrow and its condemnation as “evil” (p. 221) literature, which Molloy holds up as emblematic of the unfolding climate of censorship and obscurantism.

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  • Rathjen, Friedhelm. “Molly through the Garden/Reaching for the Bloom: A Joycean Look at Eglinton’s Dana Magazine.” James Joyce Quarterly 32.1 (Fall 1994): 108–112.

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    Close reading of “Scylla and Charybdis” episode of Ulysses in which contributors to Dana are mentioned. Suggests that articles in Dana inspired topics in Ulysses, such as Buck Mulligan’s evocation of Nietzsche. Particularly provocative tie between George Moore’s recollections serialized in Dana and phrases used by James Joyce to characterize Leopold and Molly Bloom. Similar exploration of Oliver Gogarty’s contributions to the magazine. Available online by subscription.

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  • Reynolds, Paige. “Reading Publics, Theater Audiences, and the Little Magazines of the Abbey Theatre.” New Hibernia Review / Iris Éireannach Nua 7.4 (Winter 2003): 63–84.

    DOI: 10.1353/nhr.2004.0011Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Considers the occasional publications of the early Irish Theater movement: Beltaine, Samhain, and The Arrow (edited by W. B. Yeats,) in light of recent critical work that investigates the role of little magazines in appealing to both elite and popular audiences in England and America. Available online by subscription.

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  • Shovlin, Frank. The Irish Literary Periodical, 1923–1958. Oxford: Clarendon, 2003.

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    Survey of six literary periodicals from 1923 to 1953: The Irish Statesman, The Dublin Magazine, Ireland To-Day, The Bell, Envoy, and Rann. Superb footnotes pointing readers to further reading. Considers the role of periodicals in formal developments of realism and antipastoral and in cultural debates. Does not address the theme of modernism, but nonetheless is useful for readers interested in the topic.

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Postmodernism

The title of Rickard 1994, Irishness and (Post)Modernism, reflects uncertainties surrounding the existence and definition of postmodernism; this volume considers the tension between the national and the transnational or international and contains useful essays on these themes in W. B. Yeats, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett. Several writers considered as modernists in Irish modernism have also been subject to analyses as postmodernists. Bennett and Royle 1995 argues that Elizabeth Bowen’s work embraces both modernism and postmodernism and is particularly open to theories of deconstruction. Richards 1994 is included here because it challenges the postmodern assumption that metanarratives, such as nationalism, are no longer relevant modes of inquiry and looks to Yeats’s idea of the theater as an example of how metanarrative functions and its applicability to contemporary Irish drama. Murphy 2004 considers Joyce and Beckett as touchstones of modernism, against whom he considers the contemporary writers John Banville, Aidan Higgins, and Neil Jordan. Johnsen 1974 attempts to abolish the binary opposition between modernism and postmodernism and traces elements of both in the work of Joyce. Brown 2010 claims Samuel Beckett and Flann O’Brien as postmodernists in his essay, due to their deconstructionist approach to narrative.

  • Bennett, Andrew, and Nicholas Royle. Elizabeth Bowen and the Dissolution of the Novel: Still Lives. Basingstoke, UK: Macmillan, 1995.

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    Claims to be “the first theoretically informed” (p. xiii) reading of the complete novels of Elizabeth Bowen. Argues that her work embraces modernism and postmodernism and is particularly open to deconstruction of conventional novel forms of representation. Suggests the penultimate The Little Girls (New York: Knopf, 1963) “theorizes the postmodern culture of the transitory” (p. xxi) and Bowen’s final novel Eva Trout (New York: Knopf, 1968) dissolves the self entirely.

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  • Brown, Terence. “Post-modernists: Samuel Beckett and Flann O’Brien.” In The Literature of Ireland: Criticism and Culture. By Terence Brown, 104–121. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2010.

    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511760662.009Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Considers the novels of Samuel Beckett and Flann O’Brien to be postmodernists due to their deconstructionist approach to narrative. Sees both writers as subject to “post-colonial dispossession” (p. 115): Beckett’s self-exile and O’Brien’s satire of the structure of the new state. Excellent introduction to these difficult, but rewarding, novelists.

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  • Johnsen, William A. “Toward a Redefinition of Modernism.” boundary 2 2.3 (Spring 1974): 539–556.

    DOI: 10.2307/302671Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    Attempts to abolish binary opposition between modernism and postmodernism, suggesting modernism seeks order and disorder. Close reading of James Joyce: the evolution of Stephen from Stephen Hero through to Ulysses. Argues “Stephen’s totalitarian imagination” (p. 550) expands until it incorporates Ireland into his “drama of heroic rebellion” (p. 550); through an encounter with Bloom, Stephen is freed from the totalizing process and can move among order and disorder. Available online by subscription.

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  • Murphy, Neil. Irish Fiction and Postmodern Doubt: An Analysis of the Epistemological Crisis in Modern Fiction. Lewiston, NY: E. Mellen, 2004.

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    Informed by New Criticism, argues that the work by John Banville, Aidan Higgins, and Neil Jordan transcends social, historical contexts. James Joyce and Samuel Beckett are considered frequently as touchstones for modernism, but the treatment of Flann O’Brien is slight. Suggests that Banville, Higgins, and Jordan accept epistemological uncertainty as the starting point for their fiction. Contrasts authors’ attitudes to systems of ordering and knowing the universe and the self.

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  • Richards, Shaun. “Yeats’s Theatre and the Contemporary ‘Crisis of Nihilism.’” Irish University Review 24.2 (Autumn–Winter 1994): 198–211.

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    Critiques postmodernism’s claim that metanarrative, particularly nationalism, is no longer relevant. Considers W. B. Yeats’s idea of the theater as a place for representing the ancient ideals of the nation as he conceived it and interrogates the extent to which this constitutes metanarrative. Considers competing ideas of the role of theater from John Eglinton and George Russell. Applies Yeats’s ideals to contemporary drama. Highly theoretical approach. Available online by subscription.

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  • Rickard, John S., ed. Irishness and (Post)Modernism. Lewisburg, PA: Bucknell University Press, 1994.

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    Considers the tension between the national and transnational categories of Irishness; regards (post)modernism as belonging to the latter category. Most useful essays on W. B. Yeats, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett; also includes considerations of Bram Stoker and Oscar Wilde as fin de siècle writers. Contemporary writers include Seamus Heaney, Cieran Carson, and Eavan Boland. Introduction and conclusion are heavily influenced by cultural studies.

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