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Ireland and Popular Culture

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Edited By Sylvie Mikowski

This book explores the differences between ‘high’ and ‘low’ cultures in an Irish context, arguing that these differences require constant revision and redefinition. The volume includes analysis of famous Irish writers such as Bram Stoker, Oscar Wilde, W.B. Yeats, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett, who are commonly regarded as part of the canon of elite Irish literature but who have either used elements of popular culture in their work, or else occupy a special position in popular culture themselves. Other chapters examine the elusiveness of the boundary between elite and popular culture using objects such as postcards, digital animation, surfing and the teaching of Irish mythology in schools, and demonstrating how this boundary is constantly renegotiated through subversion and parody or through the recycling of folk culture by state institutions. The book also explores the dichotomy between an ‘authentic’ Irish culture, as allegedly exemplified by Irish folklore, mythology, sport and theatre, all of which have been claimed as markers of national identity, and fabricated Irishness, designed to fit commercial or political purposes. The case of Ireland provides a rich and fascinating example of the debates which underlie the study of popular culture around the world today.
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Yannick Bellenger-Morvan: C.S. Lewis: An Experiment in Popular Literature?

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← 102 | 103 → YANNICK BELLENGER-MORVAN

Even though born in East Belfast in 1898, C.S. Lewis is not famous today for being an ‘Irish’ author, properly speaking. However, his many letters show that he felt a deep sense of yearning for his native country and that he always wished to go back home. However, his academic career kept him in Oxford, where he taught medieval and Renaissance literature before he was given a chair in Cambridge, a chair that had been created especially for him in 1954. Outside his scholarly writings, C.S. Lewis is first and foremost a popular figure, the author of numerous best sellers, most of which belong to what his contemporaries would have called lowbrow culture. His first work of prose fiction, Out of the Silent Planet, published in 1938, was a science-fiction novel. Already a famous popularizer of the Scriptures on the BBC, he became well known to the general public in 1951 when the first volume of his seven children’s fantasy stories, the Narnia Chronicles, came out. As a writer of science fiction and fantasy, he was as much despised by his fellow scholars as he was praised by his readers. Quite significantly, the way a writer relates to his readership lies at the core of Lewis’s approach to literature, both as a novelist and a critic; in his major work, An Experiment in Criticism, published in 1961, two years before he died, C.S. Lewis lamented the fact that:

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