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Authority and Wisdom in the New Ireland

Studies in Literature and Culture


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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Maciej Ruczaj - ‘Wise foolishness of saints’: The Evolution of Christian Ethical Radicalism in Patrick Pearse’s Writings


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‘Wise foolishness of saints’: The Evolution of Christian Ethical Radicalism in Patrick Pearse’s Writings

In a recent analysis of the aftermath of the Easter Rising, Charles Townshend wrote that it ‘shifted the horizons of possibility, both at the subliminal and practical level’ and that the ‘symbolic effect’ of the rebellion ‘was to burst the limits of what could be imagined’ (2006: 355). Significantly, ‘shifting the horizons of the possible and imaginable’ is a quality underlining two new theories of political leadership emerging in the same period and from the same Zeitgeist as the Rising itself; these are Carl Schmitt’s decisionism and Max Weber’s concept of charismatic authority. Both challenge the rationalistic basis of authority, both describe the ‘creative, revolutionary power’ asking the people to submit to ‘something which was not here before’ (Weber 1997: 140), and both characteristically seek their imagery in the religious and theological context. In the present essay, both of them are used as tools for reading selected texts by Patrick Pearse, one of the creators of the myth of the Dublin insurrection.

In his canonical study of the literary and psychological profiles of the leaders of the Easter Rising, William Thompson claims that: ‘Accused of being foolish, Pearse made a metaphysic out of foolishness. Throughout his plays, poems and stories, he celebrates children and fools, for in them he is steadfastly resisting maturity’ (1982: 121). This essay follows Thompson’s suggestion of positing ‘foolishness’ as one...

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