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Affecting Irishness

Negotiating Cultural Identity Within and Beyond the Nation

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Edited By James P. Byrne, Padraig Kirwan and Michael O'Sullivan

This collection of new essays addresses a key debate in Irish studies. While it is important that new research endeavours to accommodate the new and powerful manifestations of Irishness that are evident today in our globalised economy, these considerations are often overlooked. The writers in this book seek to reconcile the established critical perspectives of Irish studies with a forward-looking critical momentum that incorporates the realities of globalisation and economic migration.
The book initiates this vital discussion by bringing together a series of provocative and thoughtful essays, from both renowned and rising international scholars, on the vicissitudes of cultural identity in a post-modern, post-colonial and post-national Ireland. By including work by leading scholars in the fields of film studies, migration and Diaspora studies, travel literature and gender studies, this collection offers a thorough twenty-first-century interrogation of Irishness and provides a timely fusion of international perspectives on Irish cultural identity.

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Irish-American Identity and the Irish Language Thomas W. Ihde 219

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Irish-American Identity and the Irish Language Thomas W. Ihde For Americans seeking to celebrate their Irish heritage beyond the usual St Patrick’s Day festivities, many have often turned to the literature, music and dance of Ireland and Irish-America. To a lesser extent, Irish-Americans have also expressed interest in Irish Gaelic sports and the Irish language. This essay will argue that while participation in any of these hobbies will often fulfil this desire to ‘strengthen one’s Irish roots’, the progressive development of this pastime from an avocation to what one might call a ‘vocation’ can often lead the participant to question his or her relationship to mainstream Irish-America and mainstream Ireland. I would claim that the strongest example of this would be in the case of the Irish language. The practice of an adolescent participating in after-school activities such as music lessons, dance school, or sports is almost expected in main- stream American culture. This is true also of heritage language classes, especially for less commonly taught languages. For adults, the studying of a foreign language in an evening school once a week is seen as an oppor- tunity for self-enrichment. To participate in any of these pastimes once a week and perhaps in a weekend performance or competition every now and then is expected. However, when one goes beyond this once-or-twice- a-week participation in literary, music, dance, sports or language activities, one begins to hear comments that he or she ‘is more Irish than the Irish’. The ultimate success, one...

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