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Empire's Wake

Postcolonial Irish Writing and the Politics of Modern Literary Form

By Mark Quigley

Publication Year: 2012

Shedding new light on the rich intellectual and political milieus shaping the divergent legacies of Joyce and Yeats, Empire’s Wake traces how a distinct postcolonial modernism emerges within Irish literature in the late 1920s to contest and extend key aspects of modernist thought and aesthetic innovation at the very moment that the high modernist literary canon is consolidating its influence and prestige. By framing its explorations of postcolonial narrative form against the backdrop of distinct historical moments from the Irish Free State to the Celtic Tiger era, the book charts the different phases of twentieth-century postcoloniality in ways that clarify how the comparatively early emergence of the postcolonial in Ireland illuminates the formal shifts accompanying the transition from an age of empire to one of globalization. Bringing together new perspectives on Beckett and Joyce with analyses of the critically neglected works of Sean O’Faoláin, Frank McCourt, and the Blasket autobiographers, Empire’s Wake challenges the notion of a singular “global modernism” and argues for the importance of critically integrating the local and the international dimensions of modernist aesthetics.

Published by: Fordham University Press

Title Page, Copyright

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pp. 1-6


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pp. 7-8

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pp. ix-xiii

Despite heroic visions of the author working alone in a musty garret or the distilled silence of a library, all books are the products of a communal labor. My keen awareness of how many acts of generosity, faith, hospitality, and labor of all sorts have gone into the making of...

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Introduction. Rerouting Irish Modernism: Postcolonial Aesthetics and the Imperative of Cosmopolitanism

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pp. 1-24

As we consider the complex energies animating Irish literature in the wake of empire, some initial insight into the challenges faced by the generation of Irish writers emerging in the 1920s and 1930s and the unique value of the body of literature they produced may be gleaned...

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1. Modernity’s Edge: Speaking Silence on the Blaskets

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pp. 25-64

Just off one of the more remote stretches of Ireland’s southwestern coast and within close view of the Dingle peninsula lie the Blasket Islands. A diminutive archipelago extending south and west from Slea Head, near the tip of the peninsula, the Blaskets loom tantalizingly...

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2. Sean O’Faoláin and the End of Republican Realism

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pp. 65-121

With good reason, a wide array of scholars tend to view Sean O’Faoláin as the overarching figure of the first generation of Irish writers coming to maturity in the wake of the Irish Civil War and the establishment of the Irish Free State. Whether as editor of the...

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3. Unnaming the Subject: Samuel Beckett and Postcolonial Absence

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pp. 122-169

Until relatively recently, many scholars have been reluctant to consider Samuel Beckett’s Irishness as much more than a curious biographical footnote. Though critics as varied as Vivian Mercier, Seamus Deane, Hugh Kenner, Declan Kiberd, and David Lloyd—to name a notable...

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4. Postmodern Blaguardry: Frank McCourt, the Celtic Tiger, and the Ashes of History

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pp. 170-206

In a country so devoted to preserving—and marketing—its literary heritage, it was a rather curious sign of the times that one of the most notable additions to the Irish literary tourist circuit in the late 1990s was a tour of a past that had quite literally been razed. To the chagrin...

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Conclusion. Dispatches from the Modernist Frontier: “European and Asiatic papers please copy”

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pp. 207-211

The extent to which the Celtic Tiger fantasy of a sleek decollateralized global cosmopolitanism has proven the real chimera has, of course, been tragically confirmed by the spectacular collapse of the Irish economy. The boarded-up shop fronts and jagged rebar of thousands...


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pp. 213-227

Works Cited

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pp. 229-237


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pp. 239-250

E-ISBN-13: 9780823250462
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823245444
Print-ISBN-10: 0823245446

Page Count: 256
Publication Year: 2012

Edition: Text