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Ireland in Focus

Film, Photography, and Popular Culture

Edited by Eóin Flannery and Michael Griffin with a foreword by Colin Graham

Publication Year: 2009

From an analysis of the Guinness brand’s reflection of Irish identity to an exploration of murals and film portrayals of political prisoners, this pioneering collection of essays seeks to present Ireland’s relationship to visual culture as a whole. While other works have explored the imagistic history of Ireland, most have restricted their lens to a single form of visual representation. Ireland in Focus is the first book to address the diverse range of visual representations of national and communal identity in Ireland. The contributors examine the politics of visual representation from both historical and contemporary perspectives. Drawing from the areas of cultural theory, postcolonial studies, art criticism, documentary and archival history, and gender studies, the essays provide novel insights on a variety of visual-cultural forms, including film, theater, photography, landscape art, political murals, and the visual iconography of commercial marketing. Bringing together established scholars and emerging young critics in the field, Ireland in Focus breaks new ground in showcasing the essential dynamism of visual culture and its relationship to Irish studies

Published by: Syracuse University Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xii

In his book At the Edge of the World, a collection of photographs and impressions of the “marginal” places he has visited over the years, Jean Mohr reminisces about a 1965 trip to the Aran Islands, and specifically to Inisheer. For Mohr, Aran is primarily the place of Robert Flaherty’s Man of Aran, “for a long time one ...

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pp. xiii-xviii

In his preface to an edition of Sweeney’s Flight with photographs by Rachel Giese, Heaney writes of an “unease about the problematic relation between image and text. I always shied from the combination of speechless photograph and wordlogged verse: I think I felt that in these cases (to be extreme ...


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pp. xix-xxi

Part One - Film

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1. The Whole Picture: The Dawn (1936)—Tom Cooper

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pp. 3-16

In the first few decades of independence, Ireland went “cinema-mad” (Longford 1937, 70–71). In the 1930s, the leading film genre was the domestic comedy, with American and British films dominating the box office. Cinema was enormously popular throughout the country with thirty-six cinemas in the greater ...

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2. The Amharc Éireann Early Documentary Film Series: Milled Peat, Music, and Mná Spéire

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pp. 17-34

The late 1950s marked the beginning in popular consciousness of Ireland’s internal and external transformation from an economically underdeveloped and politically isolated nation on Europe’s western fringe, into a modern member of the international community. The so-called “Lemass years” of ...

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3. Cold, Hungry, and Scared: Prison Films about the “Troubles”

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pp. 35-53

Prison has always played a central role in the political conflict between Ireland and Britain. This site of punishment and resistance has been both a mirror of, and an influence on, political developments outside. The use of prisons by the British Government, and later by the Irish Free State, to contain opposition ...

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4. True Grit: The Evolution of Feature-Length Irish Films in the 1990s

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pp. 54-67

It has become a critical commonplace to observe that favorable economic, political, and artistic conditions combined to make the 1990s a particularly prolific decade for Irish filmmaking. The economic growth of the Celtic Tiger created a strong climate for corporate investment and an increase in ...

Part Two - Photography

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5. Images of Ardnacrusha: Photography, Electrical Technology, and Modernity in the Irish Free State

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pp. 71-85

After the founding of the Irish Free State and the ending of the Civil War, the next order of business for the Free State government seemed to be the ordering and organization of the affairs of the country. The late 1920s seemed to be a time when anything was possible and when Pearse’s vision may, after ...

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6. Moments of Story: Rachel Giese’s The Donegal Pictures

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pp. 86-106

Edna O’Brien’s words begin a fictional narrative of broken lives and broken stories; a tale that in every way enacts the movement suggested in the novel’s opening lines. History as movement, as infusion of soil, as the remembrance of a physical structure, and as the vacillation of human thought: O’Brien ...

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7. Photography and Nostalgia in Christina Reid’s The Belle of the Belfast City

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pp. 107-122

Visual images have long played a part in the cultural and social lives of the people of Northern Ireland. When walking the streets of Belfast and Derry in particular, one is aware of the significance of the visual in the public life of the city. Street murals depicting victory in battle, paramilitary images, and ...

Part Three - Popular Culture

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8. The Art of Resistance: Visual Iconography and the Northern “Troubles”

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pp. 125-143

Peggy Phelan’s comments on the “excessive” potential of all modes of representation intersect with many of the concerns of recent, and ongoing, challenges to the governing narratives of modernity, Western historiography, and the nation-state itself. Of immediate relevance to our discussion, however, ...

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9. “Colleens and Comely Maidens”: Representing and Performing Irish Femininity in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

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pp. 144-165

Idealized women have long played a central role in the Irish cultural imagination. Visual representations of allegorical and mythical female figures such as Queen Maeve, Mother Ireland, the Virgin Mary, and Hibernia have, along with their more anonymous sisters, colleens, and comely maidens ...

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10. Tá Siad ag Teacht: Guinness as a Signifier of Irish Cultural Transformation

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pp. 166-183

That Guinness is a synecdoche of Ireland is almost, at this stage, a cultural given. This commodity has taken on a fetishistic association with Ireland, an association enunciated by the desire of tourists to have a pint of Guinness as a testament to having arrived in Ireland. In all tourist shops, practically ...

Works Cited

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pp. 187-198


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pp. 199-207

E-ISBN-13: 9780815651499
E-ISBN-10: 081565149X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780815632030
Print-ISBN-10: 0815632037

Page Count: 232
Illustrations: 18 black and white illustrations
Publication Year: 2009