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Éire-Ireland 39.3&4 (2004) 5-9

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Editors' Introduction

In this issue of Éire-Ireland scholars representing a variety of disciplines reveal how directly Ireland's colonial or postcolonial identities shaped social interactions and the production of culture. Although contributors explore a range of subjects, collectively their articles demonstrate the intimate connections between Irish culture and the charged political narrative of the island's past. Yet again, we are confirmed in our commitment to an interdisciplinary approach to Irish Studies.

In her study of the play The Steward of Christendom and novel The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty, Elizabeth Cullingford argues that a defensively revisionist interpretation of Ireland's past shaped—and arguably weakened—two of Sebastian Barry's major literary works. Both the play and novel revolve around the political choices of Catholic loyalists, men who joined the Royal Irish Constabulary or the British army and became, as Barry claimed, "the discarded and forgotten" figures in nationalist Ireland. Drawing on the author's papers at the Harold Ransam Center at Austin in Texas, Cullingford demonstrates how through a series of strategic depoliticizing changes in the manuscript of his play, Barry sought to increase sympathy for a Catholic servant of empire who "failed to conform to the hegemonic narrative of Irish resistance." Suggesting the costs of such ideological commitment for this writer, Cullingford proposes that Barry too often subordinated his richly imagined characters to a politically driven and schematic rebuttal of nationalist Ireland. [End Page 5]

In his article on Jacobitism in eighteenth-century Ireland, historian David Dickson is also attentive to the interplay between political ideology on the one hand and social relations and cultural expression on the other. Recent historical writing on this period, by making systematic use of Irish-language evidence, demonstrates that the Stuart dynasty enjoyed widespread popular support in Ireland for at least sixty years after the defeat of the Jacobite forces at the Boyne in 1690. From both English- and Irish-language sources Dickson teases out the nature and extent of this support in South Munster, a region with claims to be the heartland of Jacobitism; he also explains why this deep-seated ideological orientation did not express itself in open political rebellion, as it did in Scotland and England in 1715 and 1745. From Dickson's regional study of law, order, and disaffection, readers will appreciate how our understanding of eighteenth-century Irish Catholic politics, society, and culture has been transformed through revisionist writing since the 1960s; they will also realize that Catholic political and cultural nationalism was exuberantly expressed in Jacobite forms—but not in revolution—long before it came to be expressed in its better known Jacobin forms (arising from the French Revolution) in the 1790s and later.

Three contributors explore Ireland's rich visual inventory, each investigating highly politicized imagery displayed not on museum or drawing-room walls, but on posters, in newspapers, or interacting with settings incorporated into site-specific art—for example, a prison, a handball court, or even a public urinal in London. Niamh O'Sullivan explores Aloysius O'Kelly's illustrations in the early 1880s for the Illustrated London News, imagesemerging from the artist's inside perspective on the Land War of the late nineteenth century. O'Kelly's drawings, sometimes subversively at odds with the accompanying newspaper text, revealed how tenant grievances in the West of Ireland mobilized purposeful collective action there; in the process they helped to undermine negative depictions of Irishmen in the contemporary London press. In the cover article for this issue, historian Mike Cronin's archival retrieval and analysis of imagery created for the London government's Empire Marketing Board in the 1920s place the work of major Irish artists centrally, but again subversively, within publicity machines (now of the state) working for British imperial agendas. The front and back covers of this issue, respectively, reproduce Seán Keating's [End Page 6] Irish Free State Bacon and Margaret Clarke's Free State Butter—posterimages that had remained buried in the National Archives in London until retrieved by Professor Cronin. His article argues that in their...


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