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Rethinking the Irish in the American South

Beyond Rounders and Reelers

Bryan Albin Giemza

Publication Year: 2013

Studies of the Irish presence in America have tended to look to the main corridors of emigration, and hence outside the American South. Yet the Irish constituted a significant minority in the region. Indeed, the Irish fascination expresses itself in Southern context in powerful, but disparate, registers: music, literature, and often, a sense of shared heritage. Rethinking the Irish in the South aims to create a readable, thorough introduction to the subject, establishing new ground for areas of inquiry.

These essays offer a revisionist critique of the Irish in the South, calling into question widely held understandings of how Irish culture was transmitted. The discussion ranges from Appalachian ballads, to Gone With the Wind, to the Irish rock band U2, to Atlantic-spanning literary friendships. Rather than seeing the Irish presence as "natural" or something completed in the past, these essays posit a shifting, evolving, and unstable influence. Taken collectively, they offer a new framework for interpreting the Irish in the region. The implications extend to the interpretation of migration patterns, to the understanding of Irish diaspora, and the assimilation of immigrants and their ideas

Published by: University Press of Mississippi


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pp. 1-5


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii-viii

I can speak for many of this volume’s contributors in extending much gratitude to the University of South Carolina’s Institute for Southern Studies and the Watson-Brown Foundation. The Watson-Brown Foundation generously supported the symposium on the Irish in the South...

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pp. 3-16

Popular culture conceives of the Irish diaspora as a peculiarly gifted if misunderstood people charged with an exceptionalist destiny yet to be worked out. This might help to explain why census data shows a fairly dramatic surge in those who claim Irish ancestry over recent decades,...


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pp. 17-27

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Chapter 1. "A Lengthening Chain in the Shape of Memories”: The Irish and Southern Culture

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pp. 19-35

The purpose of this essay, which commences in the circumstances of family history, is to provide an overview of some of the ways and places where the Irish have imprinted southern culture. Of course, the Irish were not the only immigrant group to leave their mark on the...

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Chapter 2. After Strange Kin: Further Reflections on the Relations between Ireland and the American South

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pp. 36-50

Strange Kin: Ireland and the American South, published in 2005, had its initial inspiration in the frequently heard remark that there is a certain similarity between Ireland and the American South as places in which a veritable explosion of literary creativity took place in the early...

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Chapter 3. Irish Migration to the Colonial South: A Plea for a Forgotten Topic

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pp. 51-74

The topic of Irish migration to the colonial South remains understudied, and with good reason. Comparatively speaking, it was— and in memory, continues to be—dwarfed by other, more visible and significant migrations, most notably that of the Scotch Irish to the...


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pp. 75-85

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Chapter 4. Tara, the O’Haras, and the Irish Gone with the Wind

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pp. 77-91

Perhaps one of the most frustrating things for fans of Gone with the Wind is arriving in Atlanta, Georgia, only to discover that they have come to the wrong place. If they want to see the white columns and the wraparound porch of Tara, they need to go to Burbank, California, and...

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Chapter 5. Transatlantic Rites of Passage in the Friendship and Fiction of Eudora Welty and Elizabeth Bowen

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pp. 92-121

While suffering from homesickness at the University of Wisconsin, Eudora Welty restlessly wandered the library until she stumbled across the poetry of William Butler Yeats and remained thoroughly absorbed in the volume until the library closed....

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Chapter 6. Shared Traditions: Irish and Appalachian Ballads and Whiskey Songs

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pp. 122-139

One of the most contentious debates within southern studies is whether Scotch-Irish settlers within the region can be considered “Celtic.” Grady McWhiney, in his book Cracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South, argues that Ulster Scots immigrants carried various...

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Chapter 7. Blacks and Celts on the Riverine Frontiers: The Roots of American Popular Music

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pp. 140-160

Environments—geographical, demographic, historical, and contextual— have played a key role in American popular music, particularly in the case of minstrelsy, the nineteenth-century black/white synthesis that lies at the root of vaudeville, tap dance, Tin Pan Alley, and...


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pp. 161-171

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Chapter 8. Another “Lost Cause”: The Irish in the South Remember the Confederacy

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pp. 163-182

In 1877 a group of prominent Irish Americans met in Charleston to commemorate the Irish Volunteers in the Confederate States of America. Two companies of that name had served during the American Civil War in South Carolina, Virginia, and North Carolina. The original volunteers...

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Chapter 9. On the Uses of Slavery: The Irish in the South and Civil War Rhetoric

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pp. 183-203

Let us start with a case study in how the Irish are “lost” to southern history, and let us begin in a watershed year: 1846 was a defining year in terms of the entangling of southern and Irish causes, as it set into motion a chain of circumstances that brought the country to war....

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Coda: Smoke ’n’ Guns: A Preface to a Poem about Marginal Souths, and Then the Poem

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pp. 204-211

You are Irish. You live in America’s marginal South, where being Irish remains sufficiently unusual as to be found exotic. You get used to the conversation. It seems to happen once a day, every day. “Where are y’all from?”...


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pp. 212-215


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pp. 216-223

E-ISBN-13: 9781621039525
E-ISBN-10: 1621039528
Print-ISBN-13: 9781617037986

Page Count: 208
Publication Year: 2013

OCLC Number: 820450881
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Rethinking the Irish in the American South

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Irish -- Southern States -- History.
  • Southern States -- Civilization -- Irish influences.
  • Popular culture -- Southern States.
  • Ireland -- Emigration and immigration -- History.
  • Southern States -- Emigration and immigration -- History.
  • Irish Americans -- Southern States -- History.
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