Revolution and Evolution
The book also examines change in the culture of the island of Ireland, from the development of the Irish historical novel in the nineteenth century, to ecology in contemporary Irish women’s poetry, to the present state of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. Contemporary Irish authors examined include Roddy Doyle, Joseph O’Connor and Martin McDonagh.
Foreword MICHAEL O’NEILL ix
Foreword Michael O’Neill Yeats, who dominates memory the more that writers seek to disengage from his influence, was much possessed by wheels and deeply preoccupied by change. Whether wheelings imply change is a matter on which his poems, like the essays in this scintillating collection, have a great deal to say. In ‘The Wheel’ he is decidedly negative: the more we wheel, the more we appear to reiterate an absolute ‘longing’. The poem attaches a mordantly entropic value to our urge to pursue the revolvings of the seasons, observing ‘that what disturbs our blood / Is but its longing for the tomb’. Elsewhere, more famously, he can imagine how ‘All’s changed, changed utterly’, his repeated use of ‘changed’ itself hinting at the paradox that change is itself only thinkable of as the uncanny double of fixity. Sacri- fice as a means to regeneration, dying to the old self so as to bring about the new: these resonant, fraught topoi trail their clouds of revolutionary fervour through Irish culture. So, too, do the cool dousings of revisionist scepticism and it is a remarkable feature of Irish writing generally, as well as of Yeats’s in particular, that it can be both extreme and self-qualifying, unbridled and reined-in, passionate and cunning. ‘Propaganda has rarely produced a fine poem’, writes Thomas MacDonagh in his Literature in Ireland, a work that sees the Irish stone in the midst of most of what is of permanent value, yet celebrates the fluid, changing shadows that sweep over...
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