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Polish-Irish Encounters in the Old and New Europe

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Sabine Egger and John McDonagh

The cultural, political, social and economic interaction between Ireland and Poland has a long and complex history. This volume hopes to contribute to an emerging debate around the issues concerned by looking at alternative frameworks for understanding the relationship between the two countries. While the topic has attracted growing interest among researchers from various disciplines in recent years, this is the first book dedicated to exploring this cultural relationship in the context of Polish migration to Ireland. The essays in this collection tease out significant strands that connect the two countries, including literature, visual media, education, politics and history. Examining Polish-Irish relations in their wider historical and cultural context allows for new definitions of Irish, Polish and European identities in the New Europe. Especially important in view of the challenges and opportunities that a multicultural Ireland faces after the hard landing of the Celtic Tiger, this book provides new perspectives on a substantial and vibrant cross-cultural relationship.

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Part II Poland and Ireland in Literature and Photography 75

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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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