Irish Literature in the British Context and Beyond

21st Century Perspectives from Kyoto

by Hiroko Ikeda (Volume editor) Kazuo Yokouchi (Volume editor)
©2020 Edited Collection XII, 238 Pages
Series: Reimagining Ireland, Volume 97


The British context has been a controversial area for those involved in Irish literature and Irish studies. Behind the present volume lies a search for a view from which the frame of the British context as well as the dichotomy between British and Irish literature can be dismantled and disrupted in a most creative sense. It addresses the question of Irish literature’s intrinsic openness by first focusing on the British context that affected Irish literary production through three centuries and then looking beyond it towards the European or global context that lay behind Irish modernism. The book further extends its research to modern Irish poetry and discusses three prominent poets after W.B. Yeats whose works are in and beyond the British context in each different way. Providing unique and new perspectives that have been evolved mostly from an international conference held in Kyoto, Japan, this collection attempts to reassess and explore the values of Irish literature in a global context.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the editors
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • Illustrations
  • Acknowledgements
  • Introduction: Towards New Perspectives (Hiroko Ikeda and Kazuo Yokouchi)
  • Part I Irish Literature in the British Context, 1500–1900
  • Lodowick Bryskett’s Fashioning of ‘Master Edmond Spenser’ (Mari Mizuno)
  • Tony Lumpkin in and out of Sweet Auburn: The Literary Topography of Oliver Goldsmith’s She Stoops to Conquer (Miki Iwata)
  • The ‘Godfather’ of Victorian Realism: William Maginn and the Cultural Conflict in the 1830s (Kazuo Yokouchi)
  • A Report from Field Research: The James Family in Ireland (Naoyuki Mizuno)
  • Part II Irish Modernism in and beyond the British Context, 1890–1940
  • ‘That Which Is Called Evil – Is Good’: What Sotoba Komachi Handed to Crazy Jane1 (Taeko Kakihara)
  • The English-language Poetry of Shotaro Oshima: An Introduction by W. B. Yeats1 (Peter Robinson)
  • A French Homer in America: James Joyce, Henri Matisse and George Macy’s Limited Editions Club Ulysses (Luca Crispi)
  • Part III Modern Irish Poetry in and beyond the Irish Tradition, 1930–2000
  • ‘Shancoduff’ Revisited: Patrick Kavanagh and the Poetic Rendering of ‘Place’ (Hitomi Nakamura)
  • John Montague’s Apprenticeship and the Legacy of Yeats1 (Mariko Nishitani)
  • Beyond Being Irish or Celtic: The Double Vision of Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s ‘Cailleach/Hag’ in Feis (Hiroko Ikeda)
  • Coda In Memory of Kyoto, 2019
  • The Conference Effect (Celia de Fréine)
  • Notes on Contributors
  • Index
  • Series index


The majority of the papers collected here were first presented at the conference Irish Literature in the British Context: Voices from Kyoto, held at Kyoto University on 21 March 2019. We would like to thank all who participated in the event, especially Dr Luca Crispi and Ms Celia de Fréine, who made the long journey from Ireland to join us. We are also grateful for the generous support given by Kyoto University, whose 2018–2019 MEXT Grant for the Enhancement of the National Universities’ International Competitiveness funded our conference. Our thanks are also due to Dr Hironao Kobayashi, Dr Tomonari Kuwayama and Dr Motohiro Kojima, who supported us throughout although they do not appear as contributors to this volume, and to a wide range of readers and audiences, whose suggestions and comments served as enormous encouragement during the evolution of the papers. Some of the papers here were first presented at the International Yeats Society and the Yeats Society of Japan Joint Symposium held at Kyoto University on 15–16 December 2018; we owe our thanks to the organizers and participants of that event too.

The publication of this volume is funded by Unit of Kyoto Initiatives for the Humanities and Social Sciences, Kyoto University. This volume constitutes part of the Kyoto Humanities Series, which offers quality achievements of the humanity researchers of Kyoto University to a readership with wide academic interests; it hopes to provide the basis for various forms of academic exchange as well as to introduce the achievements of humanities research in Japan. Our two Irish friends at Kwansei Gakuin University, Mark Donnellan and Barry Condon, reviewed our drafts and made a lot of insightful comments. Anthony Mason, Dr Eamon Maher and others at Peter Lang have encouraged and supported us through the whole process of our preparation of this book. We are grateful for the honour of publishing our papers in the renowned Reimagining Ireland series.

Hiroko Ikeda and Kazuo Yokouchi

Introduction: Towards New Perspectives

The Prince of the Land of the Rising-Sun writes to the Emperor of the Land of the Setting-Sun. How are you?

The Book of the Sui Dynasty (the seventh century)

The eversower of the seeds of light to the cowld owld sowls that are in the domnatory of Defmut after the night of the carrying of the word of Nuahs and the night of making Mehs to cuddle up in a coddlepot, Pu Nuseht, lord of risings in the yonderworld of Ntamplin, tohp triumphant, speaketh.

Finnegans Wake (1939)

Greetings from Kyoto

In the seventh century, the official history of the Sui Dynasty in China quoted a message carried to the imperial court by a Japanese envoy, in which the Prince of Japan greeted the Emperor of China.1 The former appropriately described his country as the Land of the Rising-Sun because it lay on the eastern sea off China (hence it is believed that Japan came to call itself Nippon (local appellation of Japan), literally ‘the home of the sun’), while he called China that lay in the westward the ‘Land of the Setting-Sun’. Indeed, Japan is located at the eastern end of the Old World, ←1 | 2→namely, on the east side of Asia. Come to think of it, it is Ireland rather than China in today’s perspective that is located at the opposite end of the Old World; that is, on the western end of the European Continent and beyond Great Britain. James Joyce might have been aware of this curious correspondence between Japan and Ireland when he had his ‘lord of risings in the yonderworld of Ntamplin’ (lord of the Land of the Rising-Sun in the distant world of Nippon) speak to ‘the cowld owld sowls […] in the domnatory of Defmut’ (the old souls … in the dormitory of deaf-mute, namely, in the world of Finnegans Wake and therefore Ireland). The lord’s name, Pu Nuseht, reverses ‘the sun-up’, and here we find an unmistakable allusion to the Prince of the Land of the Rising-Sun (Japan).2

The present volume is an attempt to renew and enrich historical-global greetings from the far eastern country to the far western country, out of respect for the latter’s literary tradition that never seems to stop attracting people from all over the world. It had its genesis in a one-day conference on Irish Literature in the British Context held in Kyoto in March 2019. (We are very conscious that such a title has the potential to elicit a fraught reaction among many interest groups within these neighbouring countries!) The preparation for the conference started in May 2018, following the acceptance of the proposal for funding by Kyoto University’s Project for the Reinforcement of International Competitiveness. Long considered an integral part of the humanities, literature now tends to be regarded as increasingly marginalized and obsolete in the rapidly changing world of today. In particular, Irish literature is one of the less popular areas of research in Japan, often seen as a subsection of English literature, but the conference set out to prove its contemporary worth, far-reaching effect and potential by demonstrating what it offers in aesthetic and cultural terms. The programme was prepared to provide a variety of papers with diverse approaches. The target texts included poetry, fiction and historical documents from ←2 | 3→the renaissance to the present era. The conference was open to the general public and conducted in English. Consequently, it attracted not only Japanese students and citizens, but also visiting scholars, foreign students and Irish citizens living in Japan. We believed it worthwhile to develop the fruit of the conference into book form so that we could promote the study of Irish literature and reward the kindness we received from two distinguished guest speakers, Luca Crispi and Celia de Fréine, who travelled all the way from Ireland to take part in the conference.

Kyoto and Irish studies

To look back, Kyoto has had its own tradition of Irish studies. A brief account of the history and academic background peculiar to Kyoto will suffice to highlight the direction to be taken for the studies in Irish literature there in the twenty-first century. Kyoto, at present the eighth largest city in Japan (with a population of approximately 1.5 million), has assumed a special status among Japanese cities. It was settled as the capital of Japan in 794 and remained the seat of the imperial family, even after the military powers built their own capitals from 1192 onwards, until the imperial family moved to Tokyo in 1869. Since then, Kyoto has been in a sense expected to be the reverse of Tokyo, whose name literally means ‘the eastern capital’, while Kyoto simply means ‘the capital’. If Tokyo has chosen to be a modern and advanced metropolis, Kyoto is expected to preserve its rich cultural legacy. Kyoto’s deliberate distance from rapid change has also affected its academic style. In the field of humanities, that tendency has taken the form of its particular inclination for close reading without recourse to critical theories. According to Shoichiro Sakurai, who reviewed the tradition of English studies in Kyoto University for the past century, its distinct style of close reading could be traced back to the old sayings such as Saishin-seichi [scrupulous elaborateness], favoured by Bin Ueda (first professor of English literature at Kyoto University, 1874–1916), and Jitsuji-kyuze [search for truth on the basis of fact], proposed ←3 | 4→by Naoki Kano (professor of Chinese literature, 1868–1947), both giving expression to the ideal of a down-to-earth research style that has been handed down in the Kyoto school.3

As to its relation to Irish studies, Kyoto’s tradition of close reading is suited to reading modern classics such as Yeats and Joyce, as well as older canonical texts. There are currently at least three reading groups focused on Irish literature that meet regularly in Kyoto. Firstly, the Yeats reading circle started its activity as early as in 1973 and is still active, holding its 291st meeting in April 2019. In 1990, when Otani University in Kyoto hosted the annual conference of the International Association for the Study of Anglo-Irish Literature (IASAIL, now changed into IASIL, the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures), core members of the Yeats reading circle took an active part in its organization. The result of the IASAIL conference was published as International Aspects of Irish Literature by Oxford University Press in 1996. Secondly, the Joyce reading circle had started its activity as an informal reading group at Kyoto University before Joyce scholars in Japan founded the James Joyce Society of Japan in 1989. At present, the members get together once a month at Kyoto Notre Dame University and spend half a day reading and discussing a few pages of Ulysses at a time. Thirdly, towards the end of the second millennium, 1999 saw the formation of another reading group based in Kyoto. It started as a group to learn the Irish language, and developed into the Kyoto Society for the Research of the Irish Language and Literature. Their untiring efforts to read Irish texts line by line have resulted in several publications which introduce literature in Irish to the Japanese public.


XII, 238
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2020 (December)
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, New York, Wien, 2020. XII, 238 pp., 7 fig. b/w

Biographical notes

Hiroko Ikeda (Volume editor) Kazuo Yokouchi (Volume editor)

Hiroko Ikeda is associate professor in the Graduate School of Human and Environmental Studies, Kyoto University, and a committee member of IASIL Japan and of the Yeats Society of Japan. She holds an M.A. from University College, Dublin and a PhD from Kyoto University. Her primary interest is in Irish poetry in Irish and in English from the 18th century. Her recent articles deal with Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill', Michael Hartnett, W.B. Yeats, and Charlotte Brooke. Kazuo Yokouchi is professor of English Literature at Kwansei Gakuin University, Japan, and a permanent committee member of the James Joyce Society of Japan. He holds a PhD from Kyoto University. His research interests are in British and Irish fiction from the nineteenth to the twentieth century, especially Carlyle, Thackeray, Joyce and Malcolm Lowry.


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