- Literature and Folk Culture: Ireland and Newfoundland ed. by Alison Feder and Bernice Schrank, and: Myth and Reality in Irish Literature ed. by Joseph Ronsley (review)
- University of Toronto Quarterly
- University of Toronto Press
- Volume 47, Number 4, Summer 1978
- pp. 415-418
- View Citation
- Additional Information
HUMANITIES 415 and the satisfaction of the discovery are recognizable here, as throughout the book. The narrative being personal, personalities are inevitably involved, and here Coburn seems sometimes to have trodden with less caution than might have been expected. As I write, Donald Sultana has already corrected Coburn's impression of himself (pp 147-8); John Beer has questioned her account of Humphry House (p 132); and D.M. Davin, of Kenneth Sisam (p 54). It is certainly hard for those who knew him to believe that Sisam (New Zealand Rhodes Scholar of 1910) would have thrown out the word 'colonial' as an insult to a Canadian, unless as a piece of irony (perhaps meant to be signalled by the 'charming twinkle' which Coburn interpreted otherwise) based on the supposition that his origins were well known to Oxonians. Ethel Seaton was, I believe, a graduate of London rather than of Cambridge (p 93). On the other hand, Coburn's presentation of Lord and Lady Coleridge and other twentiethcentury Coleridges is delightful and convincing; and a brief sketch of Edmund Blunden (pp 81- 2), diffident, dilatory, but eloquent when involved in his subject, is most credible. The book contains a good many other sketches, of people (named and unnamed) and places, in North America, Britain, and the Mediterranean, of equal charm. There are a few misprints here and there in the volume, trifling apart from an ugly line-transposition on p 187. A now familiar photograph of eight notebooks makes an appropriate frontispiece, and there is a pleasing reproduction of the Allston portrait on the back wrapper. (W.J.B. OWEN) Alison Feder and Bernice Schrank, editors. Literature and Folk Culture: Ireland and Newfoundland Memorial University. iX.. 18z. $8.00 cloth; $4.00 paper Joseph Ransley, editor. Myth and Reality in Irish Literature Wilfrid Laurier University Press. xiv, 329. $9.50 cloth; $7.00 paper The Canadian Association for Irish Studies, founded in Toronto in 1968, has during the past ten years sponsored an annual series of conferences exploring various aspects of modern Irish literature, history, and culture. The two most recent conferences of the association have extended the range of academic exploration, showing that modern Irish literature or history is not an isolated provincial expression but the blossom and culmination of a distinctive ancient tradition, the Celtic tradition, and that a knowledge of the myth, folklore, history, music, language, art, and archaeology of the Celtic tradition is basic to an understanding of modern Irish literature. The proceedings of five of the conferences of the 416 LETTERS IN CANADA '977 association have been published, the two most recent being the volumes before us. A collection of essays is a tricky proposition to manage. It must be more than a memorial to a past event: it is, perhaps, best justified when all the contributions relate to a chosen theme: indeed an exploration of a single theme by several scholars is .sometimes more exciting than an exploration by a single scholar. The essays in Literature and Folk Culture, edited by Alison Feder and Bernice Schrank, relate, with one exception, to a set theme, although a strong editorial hand would have transformed presentations meant for the ear into a format more appropriate for the printed page. The title of Myth and Reality in Irish Literature, edited by Joseph Ronsley, raises expectations that are not satisfied by the volume: only four of the twenty-four essays relate to the title, and then only peripherally. As well, what is intended by counterpointing myth and reality in this way? What is meant by myth? Falsehood and fabrication, as Seamus Deane suggests? Certainly not! Nor is it, as a panel on the subject - consisting of David Greene, Thomas Kinsella, Jay Macpherson, Kevin Nowlan, and Ann Saddleymer - concludes, 'simply the cement that binds society together.' Even with this stricture, Myth and Reality in Irish Literature (it should be titled simply Essays on Irish Literature) is on the whole an excellent and provocative collection of essays, thought they do not, as Ronsley suggests in his introduction, 'cohere into a mosaic image ... and ... provide vitality and reading pleasure of a kind at least related to that which Yeats found in the...