In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

BOOK REVIEWS The Anglo & the Irish Julian Moynahan. Anglo-Irish: The Literary Imagination in a Hyphenated Culture. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995. xiii + 288 pp. $24.95 JULIAN MOYNAHAN demonstrates his comprehensive and insightful knowledge of nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Irish literature in English in this collection of essays on major writers, in which he attempts to trace "a unity" in their greatest writing and "the development of a literary imagination." Individual chapters on Maria Edgeworth, Charles Lever, Gothic writers Charles Robert Maturin and Sheridan LeFanu, George Moore, Edith Somerville and Martin Ross, W. B. Yeats, Elizabeth Bowen, and Samuel Beckett are interspersed with historical summaries. Moynahan's use oihyphenated in the subtitle can allude to connecting or separating the Anglo and Irish in his title and is thus an apt trope for describing the complexities and ambiguities inherent in the historical, cultural, and literary relationships between Anglo and Irish within the island of Ireland. Moynahan's careful construction of the historical and biographical contexts, like his detailed plot summaries and jargon-free style, provide an informative and highly readable introduction to these writers and some of their works. The content and quality of individual chapters vary. Some are made up almost entirely of brief biographies and extended plot summaries, while others include discussion of the writer's conflicted sensibility in a hyphenated culture. While the book has a topic, the Anglo-Irish, it lacks coherence and an adequate thesis. For example, some chapters, most notably those on Charles Lever and Charles Stewart Parnell, are not linked to other chapters. When Moynahan moves from sketching biography, historical context, and plot summary to analysis, he is somewhat out of touch with scholarship produced in the past two decades. While he cites a few works by Terence Brown, Seamus Deane, and DecÃ-an Kiberd, he ignores the significant body of work by other scholars, most notably from North America. For example, he declares that his claim for Maria Edgeworth's "continuing importance" surpasses "the usual ones." He then challenges Marilyn Butler's attempt in her 1972 biography of Edgeworth "to integrate her as fully as possible into English literary history" and argues that in her novels of Irish subject matter Edgeworth "first created the national and regional novel as a distinct subgenre," a perspective that has been common in Irish Studies circles for years. Later he uses studies 235 ELT 40:2 1997 by T. R. Henn and Donald Torchiana in 1950 and 1966 as his touchstones for discussing Yeats. Although the analytical framework linking the chapters is weak, individual sections are successful, particularly for those readers approaching these writers for the first time. However, Moynahan's attempt to construct a new version of Anglo-Irish tradition and identity fails. The Anglo-Irish Protestant Ascendancy of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, like the Unionist Protestants in Northern Ireland today, have often been seen as having only a weak claim to being Irish. Moynahan attempts to present Anglo-Irish writers as "Irish Enough," the subtitle of his prologue. Challenging postcolonial assumptions that Anglo-Irish writers were more Anglo than Irish, Moynahan argues that because the Act of Union between Ireland and England in 1800 "made all Irish the same" and Ireland was no longer a colony, the Anglo-Irish became indelibly Irish. In his view, as "the Ascendancy becomes a Descendancy," a distinctive literature "flowers just as the social formation producing it enters a phase of contraction and decline." His view of the Anglo-Irish as a post-1800 phenomenon replaces Yeats's myth of a pre-1800 intellectual and aristocratic elite. Like Yeats, however, Moynahan ignores economic, social, and cultural realities. While Moynahan mentions Seamus Deane and Declan Kiberd's deconstruction of Yeats's myths about the eighteenth-century Anglo-Irish, he focuses his critique of postcolonialism on Edward Said's rather naive arguments about Ireland rather than on Deane and Kiberd's reluctance to include many of these writers in an Irish canon if not tradition. Had Moynahan's own argument about the continuities and relations within an Anglo-Irish tradition transcended postcolonial categories of native and colonist, his reluctance to discuss Deane and Kiberd's arguments could be overlooked...

pdf

Additional Information

ISSN
1559-2715
Print ISSN
0013-8339
Pages
pp. 235-238
Launched on MUSE
2010-05-21
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived
Back To Top

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. Without cookies your experience may not be seamless.