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Echoes of the Rebellion

The Year 1798 in Twentieth-Century Irish Fiction and Drama


Radvan Markus

The 1798 Rebellion, a watershed event in Irish history, has been a source of both inspiration and controversy over the last two centuries and continues to provoke debate up to the present day. The ongoing discussion about the meaning of the Rebellion has not been limited to history books, but has also found vivid expression in Irish fiction and theatre.
The product of extensive research, this study provides a comprehensive survey of historical novels and plays published on the topic throughout the twentieth century, comparing them with relevant historiography. It draws attention to a number of outstanding but often neglected literary works, bringing together materials written in both English and Irish. Employing important theoretical concepts such as Derrida’s ‘spectre’ and Hayden White’s tropological view of history, the book probes the relationship between historiography and fiction to shed light on their interplay in the Irish context, including the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland. This investigation illuminates a number of broader questions, including the most pressing of all: in what way should we deal with the ‘spectres’ of the past and their complex legacies?
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CHAPTER FOUR: Presbyterians and Hidden Ireland: Literary Reflections of the Rebellion, 1916–2000


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Presbyterians and Hidden Ireland: Literary Reflections of the Rebellion, 1916–2000

Arriving finally to the main focus of this study, the present chapter attempts to give a chronological overview of all the major, and most of the minor, novels and plays about 1798 written in the period 1916–2000, with the exception of the three outstanding works chosen for more thorough analysis in separate chapters.

Compared with the previous period, the topic of 1798 started to be significantly less popular in literature after 1916. In contrast to the thirteen novels about the Rebellion published in the relatively short period 1900–16, only eight more were published in the long seventy-four years between 1916 and 1990.1 Significantly, four of these novels were written in Irish. A certain return of 1798 as a more common literary theme can be traced to the 1990s with the approaching bicentenary of the event, when five novels were published (one of them in Irish), although generally of ← 89 | 90 → uneven literary quality.2 Altogether, thirteen 1798 novels were published in the period treated in this chapter.3

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