Traditions and Trends
Edited By Elke D'hoker and Stephanie Eggermont
What Happened to Literary Modernism in the Irish-Language Short Story?
The Irish language’s encounters with literary modernism is a complicated subject, involving an irregular and non-linear development; it is largely still imperfectly understood and characterized by a variety, rather than a uniformity of responses. This essay attempts to sketch the outlines of those encounters as they pertain to the short story genre. Among the challenges facing authors in this period (1900 to 1950) was the need to negotiate a slippery path between the polar opposites of cosmopolitan high modernism and vernacular, regional, dialectical literature in addition to striving to represent forms of identity that accommodated elements of both national belonging and cosmopolitan individualism. For those authors who came to the Irish language as a central tenet of cultural nationalism, their patriotism often led them to produce popular, accessible, plot-driven texts for the masses, designed to increase literacy and expand the language’s generic scope. But modernism, like modern art in general, is unpopular not accidentally but by intent. Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s contemptuous assessment of the Irish-language short story in 1969 rebuked the genre for what he perceived to be its paltry psychological advancement since the work of Pádraic Ó Conaire in the first two decades of the century. Traditional accounts of the Irish-language short story distinguish between native-speaker authors – Gaeltacht born and raised − and urban learners − Galltacht born who acquired the language − and such surveys focus on the modern versus traditional thematic concerns found in their works. This essay proceeds from ← 121 | 122 → the observation that existing...
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