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EDITORS’ INTRODUCTION This issue of ÉIRE-IRELAND, exploring Ireland from early Celtic culture through the current peace process, celebrates the interdisciplinary and hybrid nature of Irish Studies. In additon to Seamus Heaney’s verse translation of a poem by Raftery and new poetry by Peter Fallon, we offer a wideranging collection of essays. We suggest, however, that in such eclecticism resides a unity. Collectively, these works support contributor Gerry Smyth’s insistence on the “difficulty” of defining Irish identity. The phrase “being difficult,” taken from the title of his essay, then, could provide an epithet for Irish Studies in general: being difficult to define, to perform, and to analyze, especially if the confining disciplinary paradigms of Ireland ’s colonial legacy are left unexamined. We maintain that interdisciplinary dialogue is the most fruitful way of evaluating and reformulating these paradigms and are delighted that several of our contributors share our conviction. Writing about Irish history from the perspectives of literary criticism and postcolonial theory, Andrew Murphy insists on the ambiguous nature of Irish colonialism. By emphasizing Irish proximity—geographic, “racial,” and psychological—to England and the anxiety such proximity produced among the colonizers, he points out the “sameness at the heart of presumed difference,” which makes Irish colonialism so difficult to equate with a wider global colonial experience. Beginning with our cover painting, the issue also suggests the hybridity of the nation’s culture. Gwen O’Dowd’s rendering of the western coast—a traditional subject for the country’s artists—is strongly influenced by the international movement of Abstract Impressionism. By giving her nonrepresentational landscape painting an Irish-language title, Uaimh, O’Dowd evokes the complex sources of the national experience: its closeness to American and European culture and its recurring return to the familiar and local. The fluidity and diversity of Irishness are explored by many contributors . James Charles Roy addresses the hybrid nature of early Irishness, the result of a syncretism between an older Celtic and a new Christian civEDITOR ’S INTRODUCTION 5 ilization. Other essays explore Ireland’s attempts to combat diversity and instead to construct and retain a specific—often inward-looking—national identity. Sighle Breathnach-Lynch, for example, examines the Academy of Christian Art as embodying conservative rural and Catholic traditions celebrated by the Free State. By exposing the Republic’s ambivalence about participating in the Fulbright exchange program, Bernadette Whelan pursues the efforts of the state to protect its specific vision of Irishness. Troy Davis reveals the newly established government’s use of diplomacy to acquire the defining attributes of an independent nation. Finally, reassessments of rural Ireland are provided by David Smith, who explores economic agency among women in the late nineteenth century, and by Gerard Moran, who examines the failed transplanting of western Irish rural values to Minnesota. In essays about major historic leaders—Charles Gavan Duffy, Daniel O’Connell, and Michael Collins—Stephen Knowlton, Erin Bishop, and Luke Gibbons problematize any simple reading of the nation’s construction of heroic narratives. Three essays that deal most directly with Irish literature focus on the role of difficulty or obliquity in the national culture. Both Gerry Smyth and Tim Ziaukas address the archetypal “difficult ” cultural text Ulysses, while Shane Murphy explores and defends the obliquity and intertextuality in the palimpsest poetry of Paul Muldoon and Medbh McGuckian. Our interdisciplinary focus requires dialogue, which will generally appear , of course, within the articles we publish. But we also invite critical engagement from our readers. Thus we welcome Desmond Fennell’s response to Paul Power printed in the Notes and Queries section. We also present for future critical commentary Richard English’s controversial essay about the inherent futility of the Northern Ireland peace process. In our future reviews of new work in Irish Studies, we plan to publish review essays on groups of related books. Joyce Flynn’s essay will be followed by Declan Kiberd’s review essay in a subsequent issue. If this issue of ÉIRE-IRELAND is wide-ranging in subject matter, though interdisciplinary in focus, future issues promise more particular thematic emphases. Our next issue will commemorate the Great Famine, with articles by Chris Morash, Joan Vincent, Michael de Nie, Sally SummersSmith , Michael...


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