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Authority and Wisdom in the New Ireland

Studies in Literature and Culture


Edited By Carmen Zamorano Llena and Billy Gray

Since the end of the nineteenth century, Ireland has witnessed a profound reconfiguration of its cultural, political, constitutional and religious identities, resulting in an unparalleled questioning of the dominant discourses and narratives that have seemingly defined the nation. The essays in this collection examine the ways in which established Irish socio-cultural structures of authority and their constructs of collective identity have been challenged within literary and cultural discourses of the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Every challenge to the purported wisdom of these authority structures adds a new facet to the complexity of Irish national identity and contributes to the continuous evolution of the ‘New Ireland’, a phrase often used to signify the momentous transformations of the country in times of change.
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Carmen Zamorano Llena And Billy Gray - Introduction: Versions of Authority and Wisdom in the New Ireland


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Introduction: Versions of Authority and Wisdom in the New Ireland

The citizen who resists the counsel of wisdom […] ought never to have any kind of authority entrusted to him.

— Plato’s Laws, quoted in DANIEL N. ROBINSON, Wisdom: Its Nature, Origins, and Development (1990: 14)

‘New Ireland’ is a recurrent phrase in Irish history which often signals hopes for the construction of a new country emerging out of difficult historical circumstances. This was the case in the new Ireland of the turn of the twentieth century, after a long era of British rule and colonialism, or the new Ireland that followed the struggle for national independence. The phrase was also used in the controversial New Ireland Forum and, more recently, in references to the now defunct phenomenon of the Celtic Tiger. In the latter case, the phrase was often used to denote a pervasive sense of national optimism about the future, a discourse which countered the memories of the dismal past which the country was trying to overcome. A case in point is one of its latest usages by cultural critic Fintan O’Toole in his book Enough Is Enough (2010). Following on from his dissection of the causes for the downfall of Celtic Tiger Ireland in his much celebrated Ship of Fools (2009), this book aims to look into the future by presenting O’Toole’s polemical views on the requirements of building a ‘new republic’...

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