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Reimagining Irish Studies for the Twenty-First Century

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Edited By Eamon Maher and Eugene O'Brien

This landmark collection marks the publication of the 100th book in the Reimagining Ireland series. It attempts to provide a «forward look» (as opposed to what Frank O’Connor once referred to as the « backward look») at what Irish Studies might look like in the third millennium. With a Foreword by Declan Kiberd, it also contains essays by several other leading Irish Studies experts on (among other areas) literature and critical theory, sport, the Irish language, food and beverage studies, cinema, women’s writing, Brexit, religion, Northern Ireland, the legacy of the Great Famine, Ireland in the French imagination, archival research, musicology, and Irish Studies in North America. The book is a tribute to Irish Studies’ foundational commitment to revealing and renewing Irishness within and beyond the national space.

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6 Ecotheory and Criticism

Extract

EÓIN FLANNERY

In a wide-ranging essay published over thirty years ago in Irish University Review, the late Pat Sheeran highlighted an inherent hypocrisy that he saw as characteristic of Irish attitudes to our vernacular landscapes. For Sheeran, the Irish are exceptionally proficient in retailing the depth of their attachment and commitment to locality and to ‘place’, yet when one confronts the material evidence, there is little to support the idea that we value our landscapes in any meaningful way. We might well term Sheeran’s intervention as proto-ecocritical given the clarity and vehemence it brings to exposing the self-congratulatory mythologies that inform such hollowed-out species of Irish attachment to place. For Sheeran:

[w] hat is immediately striking about the Irish preoccupation with place is that it has little or nothing to do with tending, cultivating, enhancing, or otherwise materially affecting the immediate environment. This is our first clue towards the resolution of a major discrepancy or paradox. For while we Irish credit ourselves with a strong sense of place, the places themselves are allowed to go to wrack and ruin.1

In a sense the landscapes that are identified with are abstractions, even touristic simulacra, of an historic Ireland, and certainly not a landscape that requires intensive labour or personal sacrifice. And in this respect, Sheeran catalogues the copious evidence against the widely propagated but utterly vacuous contention that the Irish harbour a particular affinity for landscape or place. At length, Sheeran details:

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