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The Leaving of Ireland

Migration and Belonging in Irish Literature and Film


John Lynch and Katherina Dodou

The Leaving of Ireland brings together an international group of scholars to reflect critically on the unfolding nature of the experience of Irish cultural identity at a time when Ireland is struggling to adjust to the shattering impacts of globalization and religious scandals of recent decades. Looking back over the last two centuries, the volume considers a range of literary and filmic works that have sought to articulate something of this experience and its multiple locations. The essays revisit crucial constituents of Irish history and self-perception at the micro-level, exploring the representation of individual experiences of migration and identification and the definition of a sense of belonging. They also examine these issues at the macro-level, looking at larger politico-historical transformations, national affiliations and changed social and geographical landscapes. The book is organized around key themes including history, mobility, memory and place and addresses the works of a wide range of authors, including Emily Lawless, Frank McCourt, Sinéad Morrissey, Paul Muldoon, Joseph O’Connor, J.M. Synge and W.B. Yeats.
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Foreigners Within: Identity, Belonging and the Migrant Other in Barry McCrea’s The First Verse and Sean O’Reilly’s The Swing of Things


ABSTRACT This chapter considers two novels that address the experience of loss of certainty in the Celtic Tiger period, where the promises of consumerism and prosperity are not matched by a tolerance or recognition of the intrinsic otherness of Irishness itself. In Barry McCrea’s The First Verse and Sean O’Reilly’s The Swing of Things, we see different manifestations of a character’s sense of being an outsider in Dublin city. The chapter argues that, in different ways, both novels point to the need to disrupt the homogeneity of what it is to be considered Irish to allow for a true intercultural encounter.

During the Celtic Tiger years, lasting approximately from the early 1990s to the beginning of the twenty-first century, Ireland experienced an unprecedented economic boom and rapid transformation into one of the most globalized and economically thriving countries in the world. This newly gained, if short-lived, prosperity went hand in hand with significant cultural, social and demographic changes, which, if Roddy Doyle’s famous statement that ‘some time in the mid-90s[,] I went to bed in one country and woke up in a different one’ is anything to go by, hit Irish society overnight.1 Arguably one of the most noteworthy changes was Ireland’s transition from a land of outward migration into one of inward migration. Ireland, a postcolonial country looking back on a long and painful history ← 121 | 122 → of emigration, for the first time in its history turned into a destination for ethnically diverse migrants, political...

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