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Irish literature

(irishliterature)





For a comparatively small country, Ireland has made a disproportionatecontribution to world literature in all its branches. The works that are best known outside the country are in English , but IrishGaelic also has the most significant body of written literature, both ancient and recent, in any Celtic language, in addition to a strong oral tradition of legends and poetry. See also the main article on modern literature in Irish .

This Irish language tradition has contributed to making Irish literature in English something quite distinctive from English literature in other countries. From the older tradition, Irishwriters in English have inherited a sense of wonder in the face of nature, a narrative style that tends towards the deliberatelyexaggerated or absurd, a keen sense of the power of satire. In addition, the interplay between the two languages has resulted inan English dialect, Hiberno-English , that lends a distinctive syntax and music to the literature written in it.

Contents

Poetry

Irish poetry has a long and complex history. The Irish language has the oldest vernacular literature and poetry in that languagerepresents a more or less unbroken tradition from the 6th century to the present day. However, since at least the 14th century,poetry in English has also been written in Ireland and by Irish writers abroad.

During the late middle ages, the breakdown of the old Gaelic order that hadsupported the old professional bards broke down, and Irish language poetry started to become marginalised and by the 19th centuryhad entered the realms of folk art.

The 18th century witnessed both a late flowering of bardic poetry and song and the first major Irish poets in English, Jonathan Swift and Oliver Goldsmith .

In the 19th century, Irish poets writing in English set out to reinvent the Gaelic tradition in the new language, frequentlytranslating bardic and other early Irish poets and retelling stories from Celtic mythology in Victorian verse. This trend resulted in the early work of W. B. Yeats .

At the beginning of the 20th century, Yeats' style changed under the influence of his contact with modernism . The generation of Irish poets that followed Yeats were, to simplify, divided between those whowere influenced by his early Celtic style and those who followed such modernist figures as James Joyce and Samuel Beckett , both of whom wrotepoetry as well as their better known fiction and drama.

During the course of the 20th century, the influence of Yeats has tended to dominate. either as role model or as someone torebel against. However, this period also saw the emergence of such significant figures as Patrick Kavanagh , Seamus Heaney and Brian Coffey . This period also saw a revival of poetry in Irish, at least partly asa result of government policy decisions in support of the language.

Fiction

Although the epics of Celtic Ireland were written in prose and not verse, most people would probably consider that Irish fiction proper begins in the 18th century with the works of Jonathan Swift (especially Gulliver's Travels ) and OliverGoldsmith (especially The Vicar ofWakefield ).

A number of Irish novelists emerged during the 19th century, including Maria Edgeworth , John Banim , Gerald Griffin , Charles Kickham , William Carleton , George Moore and Somerville and Ross . Most of these writers came from the Anglo-Irish ruling classes and they wrote what came to be termed novels of the big house. Catleton was anexception, and his and Stories of the Irish Peasantry showed life on the other side of the social divide. Bram Stoker , author of Dracula , wassomewhat outside this tradition.

George Moore spent much of his early career in Paris and was one of the first writersto use the techniques of the French realist novelists in English.He can be seen as one of the precursors of the most famous Irish novelist of the 20th century, James Joyce . Joyce is often regarded as the father of the literary genre " stream of consciousness " which isbest exemplified in his famous work, Ulysses . Joyce alsowrote Finnegan's Wake , Dubliners , and the semi- autobiographical A Portrait of theArtist as a Young Man . Joyce's high modernist style had its influence oncoming generations of Irish novelists, most notably Samuel Beckett ,Brian O'Nolan, who published as Flann O'Brien and Myles na gCopaleen,and Aidan Higgins . O'Nolan was bilingual and his fiction clearly showsthe mark of the native tradition, particularly in the imaginative quality of his storytelling and the biting edge of hissatire.

The big house novel prospered into the 20th century, and Aidan Higgins' first novel Langrishe, Go Down is anexperimental example of the genre. More conventional exponents include Elizabeth Bowen and Molly Keane (writing as M.J. Farrell ).

With the rise of the Irish Free State and the Republic of Ireland , more novelists from the so-called lower socialclasses began to emerge. Frequently, these authors wrote of the narrow, circumscribed lives of the lower-middle classes and smallfarmers. Exponents of this style range from Brinsley McNamara to John McGahern .

The short story has also proven popular with Irish fiction writers. Wellknown short story writers include Frank O'Connor and Sean O Faolain .

Surprisingly rare are Irish writers of folk stories. Herminie T. Kavanagh , although the most famous, is little known, and is in danger of falling off theedge of historical record.

Theatre

Although the documented history of Irish theatre began at least asearly as 1601 , the earliest Irish dramatists of note were William Congreve , one of the most interestingwriters of Restoration comedies, and Oliver Goldsmith and Richard Brinsley Sheridan , who were two of the mostsuccessful playwrights on the London stage in the 18th century.

In the 19th century, Dion Boucicault was an extremely popularwriter of comedies. However, it was in the last decade of the century that the Irish theatre finally came of age with theemergence of George Bernard Shaw and Oscar Wilde and the establishment in Dublin in 1899 of the Irish Literary Theatre .

This last company, later to become the Abbey Theatre , performed playsby W.B. Yeats , LadyGregory , John Millington Synge , and Sean O'Casey . Equally importantly, through the introduction by Yeats, via Ezra Pound , of elements of the Noh theatreof Japan , a tendency to mythologise quotidian situations, and a particularly strong focuson writings in dialects of Hiberno-English, the Abbey was to create a style that held a strong fascination for future Irishdramatists.

The twentieth century saw a number of Irish playwrights come to prominence. These included Samuel Beckett , Brendan Behan Denis Johnston , Brian Friel , Thomas Kilroy , Tom Murphy , HughLeonard , and John B. Keane .There was also a rise in the writing of plays in Irish, especially after the formation, in 1928 , of AnTaidhbhearc , a theatre dedicated to the Irish language. The Gate Theatre , also founded in 1928, introduced Irish audiences to many of the classics of theEuropean stage.

Since the 1970s, a number of companies have emerged to challenge the Abbey's dominance and introduce different styles andapproaches. These include FocusTheatre , The Children's T Company , the Project TheatreCompany , Druid Theatre , TEAM and Field Day . These companies have nurtured a number of writers, actors, and directors who have since gone on to besuccessful in London, Broadway and Hollywood .

External links

See also


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