Edited By Sabine Egger and John McDonagh
Part II Poland and Ireland in Literature and Photography 75
Part II Poland and Ireland in Literature and Photography John Merchant Universal Identities and Local Realities: Young Poland’s (Mis)readings of Synge Much has been made of the brilliance of Irish-Ireland in articulating and reinvigorating Irish identity at the turn of the twentieth century, but rela- tively little attention has been paid to how its genius played to foreign audiences. The case of Synge’s impact on Young Poland, a parallel cultural movement, is especially intriguing in this regard, because it not only rep- resents a contemporaneous, transnational reaction to the Irish Cultural Revival, and the Abbey Theatre in particular, but it also exposes the essential limitations of an extra-national, non-Irish reading of Irish literature. The question of the accessibility of Irish literature to foreign audiences is a stimulating one. In Synge and Anglo-Irish Literature, the Irish writer and critic Daniel Corkery suggested that Irishness was not readily understand- able to the outsider, but rather it was something that had to be intuited. ‘As for Irish nationalism,’ Corkery wondered, ‘how can normal countries understand it? […] The only way to get to know it is to learn the Irish language and read the poetry in it.’1 While Corkery’s assertion is under- standable given the charged cultural context of the nascent Irish Free State of the 1930s, for the contemporary admirer of Irish literature the implica- tions of such a position are dif ficult to accept. After all, Irish writers such as William Butler Yeats, James Joyce, Sean O’Casey, and Samuel Beckett...
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