Sexual images and innuendo have become commonplace in contemporary advertising; they often fail to register in any meaningful way with the audience. This book examines the essentially racist stereotypes through which Irish people have conventionally been regarded have been increasingly challenged and even displaced perhaps by a sequence of rather more complimentary perspectives. The various developments that are signified within the figure of the Celtic Tiger might be considered to have radically altered the field of political possibility in Ireland. The enormous cuts in public expenditure that marked this period are held to have established a desirable, stable macroeconomic environment. The Celtic Tiger shows that one can use the rhetoric about 'social solidarity' while actually implementing policies which increase class polarisation. The book discusses the current hegemonic construction of Ireland as an open, cosmopolitan, multicultural, tourist-friendly society. The two central pieces of legislation which currently shape Irish immigration policy are the 1996 Refugee Act and the Immigration Bill of 1999. The book offers a critical examination of the realities of the Celtic Tiger for Irish women. Processes of nation state formation invariably invoke homogeneous narratives of ethnicity and national identity. To invoke a collective subject of contemporary Ireland rhetorically is to make such a strategic utopian political assumption. For the last few hundred years, the Gaeltacht has exemplified the crisis of Irish modernity. Culture becomes capital, and vice versa, while political action increasingly consists of the struggle to maintain democratic autonomy in the face of global market forces.
Flying high? Culture, criticism,
theory since 1990
Lucy McDiarmid begins her review of The Cambridge History of Irish
Literature by reflecting on the upholstery of Aer Lingus seats, which
features quotations from James Connolly, Yeats, Shaw, and lines from
the sixteenth-century anonymous Gaelic lament for Kilcash. The quotations on the seats knit together the recurrent dynamics of Irishculture and society that have been interwoven since the twelfth century:
tradition and modernity, arrival
approach has even greater validity for Ireland in particular. What passes
for Irish ‘culture’ today – the musical dance show Riverdance, the ‘supergroup’ U2 or the ubiquitous global ‘Irish pub’ – does not spring from the
eternal wells of the Irish soul. Rather, these phenomena are, to a large
extent, manufactured by the global cultural industry. They reflect fully
all of the hybridity, syncretism and even, arguably, the ‘postmodernism’
typical of the cultural political economy of globalisation. If globalisation
can be said to have produced a ‘world showcase of cultures
to examine and evaluate the literary
voices that continue to enhance and enrich contemporary Irishculture.
The book that follows consists of seventeen chapters focusing on the
drama, poetry and autobiography fiction published since 1990, but also
reflecting upon related forms of creative work in this period, including
film and the visual and performing arts. The ‘diverse voices’ in the title
refers not only to the variety of creative talents currently at work in
Irish letters, but also to the range of perspectives brought to book here,
from scholars scrutinising
The tragedy (and comedy) of accelerated modernisation
Faustian split with particular intensity. Their inner
anguish has often inspired revolutionary visions, actions and creations,
and no doubt this is the fissure that has produced talents ranging from
Joyce to U2, from Flan O’Brien to Brian Friel. That Westlife or Meave
Binchey should be seen to be the bearers of this torch should be a cause
for concern, as it may herald that what was fraught, and fecund, in Irishculture is becoming scarred over, dead and insensitive.
Millenarianism and utopianism
But as people are torn and tear
The return of the repressed in Roddy Doyle’s Paula Spencer
Jennifer M. Jeffers
of her own culpability: ‘He hit me, he hit his children, he hit other
people, he killed a woman – I kept blaming myself. For provoking him’
(p. 170). One aspect that is certain, Charlo’s behaviour is sanctioned
by the authorities and by Irishculture. When visiting a doctor about
her injuries, Paula is asked if she had been drinking: ‘Have you had a
drink Mrs Spencer?’ And friends and family members ask her what she
said to him to provoke him: ‘Did you say something to him Paula?’
and ultimately: ‘Why did you marry him then, Paula?’ (p. 171). Judged
feared nor frustrated, though that image
itself may owe as much to Jack’s imagination as to fact, as Michael’s
own memories of that golden summer of 1936 do. It is nonetheless striking that Friel should pit the sterility of Irishculture, deprived of any
continuity with its pagan Celtic roots, against the joyous celebrations
and dances of Africa perceived as a repository of a universal sense of
the sacred. Africa though, is beyond the reach of the sisters, whose only
choice appears to be either a frugal, lonely life in Ballybeg or emigration to London. A culture that
Laffan, The Resurrection of Ireland: The Sinn Féin Party, 1916–1923 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1999).
3 Timothy W. Guinnane, The Vanishing Irish: Households, Migration, and the Rural Economy in Ireland, 1850–1914 (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997).
4 Tara Stubbs, American Literature and IrishCulture, 1910–55 (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2013).
5 Giovanni Federico, Feeding the World: An Economic History of Agriculture, 1800–2000 (Princeton: Princeton
Irishculture – albeit highly hybridised ones – have the potential to reach
a global audience.
The burgeoning cultural appeal of the Irish Republic has been underlined further by the changing fortunes of the national capital. If we were
to go back fifteen years or so, the reputation that Dublin held among
foreigners was essentially that of a fairly drab and unsophisticated place.
In the course the 1990s, the image of the city would, however, be transformed almost beyond recognition. Consequently, the view that outsiders
have of Dublin today is invariably that of a
’, in The Cambridge Guide to
Modern IrishCulture, ed. Joe Cleary and Claire Connolly (Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 2005), p. 178.
15 Ibid., p. 180.
16 Seamus Heaney, The Government of the Tongue (London: Faber, 1988),
17 Stephen Dedalus notes in his diary: ‘The shortest way to Tara was via
Holyhead’, James Joyce, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, ed. Seamus
Deane (London: Penguin Books, 1992), p. 273.
18 Bernard O’Donoghue, ‘Poetry in Ireland’, in Modern IrishCulture, ed.
Joe Cleary and Claire Connolly (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press