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Non-Violent Resistance

Irreverence in Irish Culture


Edited By Agnès Maillot, Jennifer Bruen and Jean-Philippe Imbert

Humour, by its very nature controversial, plays an important role in social interaction. With its power to question assumptions, it can be used a weapon of subversion, and its meaning and interpretation are embedded within the culture that generates them in complex ways. The scrutiny of Irish culture through the lens of humour is highly revealing, contributing to an alternative, and sometimes irreverent, reading of events. As John Updike wrote of Raymond Queneau’s witty re-imagining of the Easter Rising, humour can effectively expose «casual ambivalence».

This volume investigates the many ways in which writers, playwrights, politicians, historians, filmmakers, artists and activists have used irreverence and humour to look at aspects of Irish culture and explore the contradictions and shortcomings of the society in which they live.

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11 Seán Ó Faoláin and De Valera’s ‘Dreary Eden’ (François Sablayrolles)


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11 Seán Ó Faoláin and De Valera’s ‘Dreary Eden’

In his article entitled ‘To Some Old Republican Somewhere: From Another’ published in the Irish Times as Ireland was readying itself to commemorate the fiftieth anniversary of the Easter Rising, Ó Faoláin proposed to revisit the nature of Pearse’s vision of a republic. Underlining what seemed to him a definite lack of clarity and practicality as to the definition of this ideal, Ó Faoláin denounced the betrayal of the republican cause, which started as early as 1927, when ‘republicans’ decided to enter the Dáil. The profoundly unequal Irish society that emerged in the wake of Ireland’s independence, Ó Faoláin claimed, was thus nothing but a bleak replica of the ‘ancient world’, only with ‘Irish names’ pasted over ‘English ones’, alien to the cause that had inspired the heroes of 1916:

We have set up a society of urbanised peasants, whose whole mentality, whose image of life is, like an antiquated society, based on privilege; a society run by a similar minority of ambitious business-men, ‘rugged individualists’ looking down at, fearing even hating ‘the men and women of no property’, thriving on the same theory of God-made inequality, welcoming and abetting, by the same self-interested silence, the repression of every sign of individual criticism or reconsideration of the social and moral results of history.1

As we can see, the seasoned intellectual had lost nothing of his...

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