This article argues that, while Joyce was not a supporter of language revival in Ireland, he recognized a kinship with the utopian longings and modernist energies that subconsciously subtended the language movement. The essay makes conjectures about the extent to which Irish as a native vernacular was a psychological presence in Edwardian Dublin, speculating that many Dubliners, including people close to Joyce, must have had at least lingering memories of native Irish-speaking relatives or servants, a kind of Irish in contrast to some extent with the nationalist emblem being taught and learnt in Gaelic League classes across the city. The central claim of the essay is that certain strains of thought and feeling in the Gaelic revival movement — a longing for a more authentic language in which the soul might express itself, the ideal of a lost, more perfect language which might be recreated — chimed closely with many of Joyce’s own modernist ideas. The Irish language revival movement was thus not a conservative and provincial counter-current to metropolitan European modernism, but one expression of impulses and yearnings held in common with avant-garde writers in the early twentieth century.


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pp. 148-157
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