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The Leaving of Ireland

Migration and Belonging in Irish Literature and Film


Edited By 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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Modernity exists in the form of a desire to wipe out whatever came earlier in the hope of reaching at last a point that could be called a true present, a point of origin that marks a new departure. This combined interplay of a deliberate forgetting with an action that is also a new origin reaches the full power of the idea of modernity.

— PAUL DE MAN, ‘Literary History and Literary Modernity’, 388–9

The title of this collection, The Leaving of Ireland, refers to the idea of departure as both a physical movement and a temporal category that points to the quite different country that exists today in contrast to the Ireland of the twentieth century. A number of vectors of social change, from exposure of Church abuse scandals to globalization and economic turmoil, have altered the landscape of Ireland forever. However, this does not merely supplant what went before in a linear developmental process. What such a moment offers is an opportunity to reconsider the very terms by which the dominant narrative of Irish identity has asserted and maintained itself and it should not be, as Paul de Man pointedly argues, simply another moment of ‘forgetting’ that functions to generate another point of origin. One mythology should not be replaced by another but instead open a space for a critical reflection on the process of writing itself.

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