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The Crossings of Art in Ireland

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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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John Hewitt and the Sister Arts

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John Hewitt is best known as a poet, showing the post-Second World War generation that Ulster was a worthy subject of poetry, and regarded, in James Simmons’s words, as ‘the father of us all’, including in that first-person plural poets like Michael Longley and Seamus Heaney. By profession, however, Hewitt was an art gallery man, and what is interesting here is how in his life he combines the two sister arts of painting and poetry.1 To what extent can we see his knowledge and activities in the world of visual art reflected in his poetry? How does he express the crossing of the arts in ekphrastic poems?

Born in 1907 in Belfast, John Hewitt tells us that in his childhood he enjoyed looking at the pictures in art books from his parents’ shelves, and from them learnt the basics of perspective and symmetry.2 He attended art school for a while but soon discovered that he had no talent for it. The European tours with or without his father seem to have been focused on museums and art galleries, an interest – or maybe a passion – kept up throughout his life except during the war when it was politically impossible to travel. The chapter entitled ‘Annus Mirabilis’, in his unpublished autobiography ‘A North Light’, conveys the sense of freedom and opportunities when he could set out after the war not only to London but also ← 145 | 146 → to Paris and Venice.3 The purpose of the journey was primarily...

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