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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