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The Crossings of Art in Ireland


Edited By Ruben Moi, Brynhildur Boyce and Charles Armstrong

The essays in this volume explore interartistic connections in Irish literature, drama, film and the visual arts. Within modern and postmodern culture, innovation is often driven by surprising interrelations between the arts, and this book offers a discussion of this phenomenon and analyses a number of artworks that move across disciplines. Several contributors examine the concept of ekphrasis, looking at how Irish writers such as Seamus Heaney, John Banville, Paul Muldoon, Ciaran Carson, Patrick Kavanagh, W.B. Yeats and Samuel Beckett have responded to the visual arts. Others explore interartistic ‘crossings’ in the drama of Brian Friel, in James Barry’s eighteenth-century Shakespeare paintings and in contemporary Irish film. Together, the essays present a fresh perspective on Irish artistic culture and open up new avenues for future study.
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‘True Gods of Sound and Stone’ – The Many Crossings of Patrick Kavanagh’s On Raglan Road


Inniskeen-born poet Patrick Kavanagh once made a remark to the effect that Ireland could at any time muster an army of a thousand poets. A similar claim could be made that Ireland nowadays can muster an equally strong army of remediators of poetry in song and image. Kavanagh, in what is perhaps his best-known poem, ‘On Raglan Road’, suggests that there is a secret communality between practitioners of the various arts:

I gave her gifts of the mind I gave her the secret sign that’s knownTo the artists who have known the true gods of sound and stoneAnd word and tint […]

To the artists mentioned (composers, sculptors, writers and painters) we would today have to add filmmakers and other workers within new media and hybrid genres, as ‘the secret sign’ continues to travel new roads of intertextuality and remediation. In the case of Kavanagh’s own poem, this trail of remediation is particularly tangled as new layers of meaning are added every time the song is used in a soundtrack, for instance, where it takes on a role of performing an ekphrasis (from the Greek, literally meaning ‘a speaking in full’) of the images it accompanies.

This chapter aims to trace the history of Kavanagh’s poem: its marriage to the melody of ‘The Dawning of the Day’, an air composed by the blind harpist Thomas Connellan in the seventeenth century; its reversal of some of the dichotomies set forth in the original lyrics...

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