Ireland Literature From the End of the 20th Century to the Beginning of the 21st Century

By | June 2, 2022

According to topschoolsintheusa, the sectarian violence between republican nationalists and pro-British unionists, which exploded in 1969, marked the history of Ireland as a tragic remnant of the unresolved condition of a former colony. To the sense of insecurity of the 1970s that it had brought S. Heaney (Nobel prize for literature in 1995), to emigrate to the south of the island, in the 1980s a proactive phase had taken place on the part of the country’s intellectual class. Concrete manifestations of this were the publication in Dublin of The crane bag magazine (1977-85) and the foundation, in 1980 in Derry, of Field Day, a theater company and publishing house directed by Heaney, the playwright B. Friel and the critic and poet S. Deane. The program was to try to resolve, in the name of art, apparently irreconcilable dichotomies: Gaelic language and English language, Catholics and Protestants, city and countryside, Irish and Anglo-Irish, Catholic doctrine and the values ​​of modernity, patriarchal society and the universe. female. The political scene in the second half of the 1990s was marked by the ceasefire in the Ireland del Nord (1994) and the success of the referendum on divorce (1995), events that have also constituted a watershed in the life and cultural consciousness of the country. The appearance of the literature of younger generations, less pressured by the issue of terrorism, more accustomed to seeking political solutions and more homologated to each other in terms of language and culture,

In the last decades of the twentieth century, a true second ‘Celtic renaissance’, no less than that desired by Yeats at the beginning of the 20th century, manifested itself in poetry. Alongside Deane they have been promoters T. Kinsella, B. Kennelly, and above all Heaney, a poet capable of infinite variations, always striving for a painful, problematic balance between violence, exile, myth and history. To the same generation also belong D. O’Grady who, having lived for a long time abroad, elaborates a poetic language where the influences of other traditions are recognizable, from the Italian one to the Greek, Egyptian, Arab one; it’s still D. Mahon and M. Longley, witnesses to the sentiments of the Protestant bourgeoisie of Ulster. Immersed in the conflicting issues of Nordic identity are WJ McCormack (pseudonym of the critic and poet Hugh Maxton), F. Ormsby, C. Carson, P. Muldoon, while T. Paulin’s poetry vibrates with the double contradiction of a politically committed present and a universal yearning. It was fundamental in the last quarter of the 20th century the voice of women, who have imposed a strong critique of the traditional woman-Ireland equation. E. Boland echoes the past and Celtic tradition in the rhythms of daily life and history, and in some essays (A kind of scar, 1989; Object lessons, 1995) requires a radical re-reading of the history of Ireland which saw women, as icons of the nation, excluded as subjects. The work of E. Ní Chuilleanáin, M. Dorcey, and P. Meehan is dedicated to the analysis of female relationships (mothers, sisters, friends, companions) and to the detailed description of everyday life. Through lean rhythms and a cryptic and intense language M. McGuckian tackles challenging themes on a theoretical and conceptual level, while RA Higgins involves the reader in the painful and ironic description of social reality.

The contemporary Irish novel almost obsessively returns to some thematic knots: the difficulties and the underground violence of family relationships, the conflict between tribal silence and individual conscience, exile and return, transgression and sexual frustration, treated from different angles, often drawing on the language of Catholic theology, still very vital in Irish culture. A particular position occupy W. Trev; or and B. Moore, long-time expatriates, who have not cut ties with Ireland, always present in their works. Different is the case of works often set in Southern Europe, in an attempt to propose a less insular reading of Irish reality (A. Higgins, J. O’Faolain, D. Madden, C. Toibin). E. O ‘Brien, J. McGahern dedicated particular attention to the contrast between the peasant world and the urban universe, who proposed increasingly merciless analyzes of the old and new conformisms of the Irish. J. Plunkett and E. McCabe compete with the historical novel, while J. Banville, undisputed heir of Joycian experimentalism, after original studies conducted on the relationship between science and imagination, continues to exercise his lucid deconstruction of narrative forms and conventional genres. A special case is N. Jordan, always poised between literature and cinema. B. Kiely, B. MacLaverty, G. Patterson, R. McLiam Wilson measured themselves with the theme of violence and terrorism, studying their effects even in the most hidden corners of the family universe. The highest proof of elaboration of the theme of violence is Reading in the dark (1996) by the aforementioned Deane. Finally, we must consider the group of New Dubliners, authors of often proletarian social extraction or who adopt the languages ​​of the urban proletariat: among these the most famous is R. Doyle.

In the Irish theater, decentralization initiatives have flourished that re-propose the island’s cultural and linguistic plurality. Among the most relevant authors, T. Murphy and T. Kilroy, who address the issue of the double. F. McGuinness represents the political, cultural and sexual diversity between Irish and British in various forms. T. MacIntyre aims at a gestural and pictorial theater, full of references to the unconscious. G. Reid sets his plays in one Belfast surreal and violent. Women, despite having a great forerunner in the figure of Lady Gregory, have only recently had the opportunity to access theatrical writing: the theme of sectarian violence, seen from a female point of view of total rejection, is at the center of the works of A Devlin, while M. Carr evokes the obsessive presence of memory with an extraordinarily expressive language. The greatest playwright remains Friel, however, for the effectiveness and intensity with which he stages the problems of language and communication, the uncertainty of history, the inadequacy of reality with respect to the imagination.

Ireland Literature From the End of the 20th Century to the Beginning of the 21st Century