Fresh Perspectives on Irish Literature
Edited By Paddy Lyons and Alison O'Malley-Younger
These shifts in culture have given Irish literature the opportunity to look afresh at its own past and, thereby, new perspectives have also opened for Irish Studies. The contributors to this volume explore these new openings; the essays examine writings from both now and the past in the new frames afforded by new times.
Paddy Lyons and Alison O’Malley-Younger Introduction
Introduction Paddy Lyons and Alison O’Malley-Younger That is no country for old men. The young In one another’s arms, birds in the trees – Those dying generations – at their song, The salmon-falls, the mackerel-crowded seas, Fish, flesh, or fowl, commend all summer long Whatever is begotten, born, and dies. Caught in that sensual music all neglect Monuments of unageing intellect. — W.B. Yeats, ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ ‘Sailing to Byzantium’ looked forward to a departure overseas, to emi- gration. From the mid-nineteenth century, and well into the twentieth century, away was all too frequently the direction in life taken by Irish citizens, most often to assure for their families some economic prosperity; and often too, away was the direction taken by Ireland’s writers – Joyce, O’Casey and Beckett, for instance – seeking access to freedom and to experience not readily available at home. Taken literally, Yeats’s poem is no guide to the mood of those times: there is little to suggest sensual music was in much abundance in the Ireland of the late 1920s. Times were hard, then, and for the young who stayed, it could seem as if geriatrics ruled; as if the young were doomed to be – in Anthony Cronin’s notorious and erstwhile censored phrase – ‘Dead as Doornails under Dev’. But by the late twentieth century, all was changing. By the 1980s, Ireland was the European country with the largest percentage of citizens under the age of twenty-five, and their music was being heard: Ireland had a thriving new musical culture, and was...
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