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Beautiful Strangers

Ireland and the World of the 1950s

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Edited By Gerald Dawe, Darryl Jones and Nora Pelizzari

This groundbreaking collection examines popular and literary culture in the 1950s through the lens of postwar Ireland. The 1950s are at once a site of cultural nostalgia and of vital relevance to twenty-first-century readers. The diverse essays collected here offer insight into the artistic effects of austerity on both creators and consumers of 1950s culture, examining cultural production in Britain and the United States as well as Ireland. The first book of its kind, it blends critical analysis with cultural memory of a unique time in the history of Irish literature and the broader world. From Samuel Beckett to Elvis Presley and Movement poetry to bestselling science fiction, this volume highlights the crucial role Ireland played in the growth of literary and popular culture throughout this fascinating decade and beyond.

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Introduction

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‘Austerity’ is a word which has re-entered the cultural lexicon over the past few years. We in the West are now told, by many of our governments and journalists, that ‘a period of austerity’, a severe curtailing of personal and public expenditure, is the only hope we have of getting ourselves out of the financial crisis which has devastated world economies from 2007. Other voices, including many prominent economists and public intellectuals, argue quite the opposite: that the only way out of our crisis is to rediscover Keynesian economics, systematically marginalized in the Anglophone political world since the late 1970s. Austerity, the Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman asserts, along with many others, is not the solu- tion. It is the problem.1 We have been here before. In 2007, just before the crisis hit, the distin- guished social and economic historian David Kynaston published a book entitled Austerity Britain.2 As we write this in 2012, it is hard to imagine that, even five years ago, ‘austerity’ had only one dominant historical ref- erent, the postwar years of the late 1940s and early 1950s (and Kynaston’s book is subtitled 1945–51). In its postwar context, ‘austerity’ referred to the political climate of rationing, scarcity and deprivation in the immedi- ate aftermath of the Second World War, as the West struggled to rebuild, structurally, infrastructurally, economically and socially. The means by which this rebuilding was achieved became known as the ‘postwar settle- ment’, a consensus across the US, the UK and most Western...

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