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New Crops, Old Fields

Reimagining Irish Folklore


Conor Caldwell and Eamon Byers

From our homes to our houses of government, from our schoolyards to our stadia, from our galleries to our gable walls, folklore is not only preserved but continues to be reimagined in all aspects of everyday life in Ireland. In the twenty-first century, the traditions of Irish folklore are engaged in a constant process of regeneration, where the old and the new, the oral, the textual and the visual intermingle. However, while the «first life» of Irish folklore has amassed a vast literature, what has attracted less attention is its «second life»: the variety of ways in which traditions have been reused and recycled in other contexts by politicians, poets, visual artists, sportsmen, tourism officers, museum curators, writers and musicians.

This volume is concerned with those moments of cultural creation that occupy the space between the «first life» and «second life» of folklore and, in particular, the ways in which folk traditions are reinvented. Featuring essays from both authorities in the field and emerging voices, this interdisciplinary collection demonstrates the rich diversity of folk culture, as a practice and as an area of study, in contemporary Ireland.

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9 Mother Ireland: Folklore and the Fractured Family in Irish-Themed Cinema (Jack Casey)


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9   Mother Ireland: Folklore and the Fractured Family in Irish-Themed Cinema

Folklore is an intrinsic part of Irish history and identity. Writing in the early twentieth century, D. H. Moutray-Read stated that, when discussing Ireland, ‘folkore and history are interdependent’ (1918: 283). Nearly a hundred years later, this remains the case. Ireland is a country that has endured centuries of occupation under British rule, been torn apart by civil war and ravaged by famine, has lost millions of its children to the Irish diaspora, and remains a divided, contested and politically volatile place. Yet this is not the Ireland about which we learn as young children. In a nation where the oral tradition reigns supreme, an education in folklore begins on the laps of a thousand grandparents and the backseats of innumerable car journeys, long before any formal schooling: we are taught of Cú Chulainn before Collins, the Dullahan before de Valera, and while a knowledge of the country’s political history comes later, our first and continued understanding of Ireland is in terms of its folkloric past. In developing a clear picture of Irish heritage, then, we must explore what Diane Negra calls ‘the importance of myths of origin’ (2006: 6) in the formation of Irish identity. Ireland is a nation of storytellers; a people whose folklore is an inherent part of both oral tradition and documented history. Indeed, R. F. Foster states that ‘Irish history, biography and memoir are...

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