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EDITORS’ INTRODUCTION The pressure of Irish nationalism asserts itself as a potent and inevitable reference point for contributors to this issue, even as Ireland enters into its postnationalist era. In some ways the nationalist past is still very much with us. This fall, on October 14, most adults living on the island of Ireland saw on their television screens some portion of the ceremonies transferring the remains of ten IRA volunteers, executed by the British in 1920 and 1921, from Mountjoy prison to Glasnevin cemetery in Dublin. This state-organized ritual, celebrated on the streets of a prosperous European Community capital city in the new millennium, dramatized an enduring, if uneasy, Irish nationalist memory. Although this issue of Éire-Ireland was organized without any particular synthesizing agenda, we find that our multidisciplinary contributors persistently explore the complexities of a nationalist political and cultural history—as a motivating agenda for new identities, as a retrogressive and monolithic state formulation , or as a contested and shifting construction of policies and attitudes. We begin with Adrian Frazier’s provocative reading of Seamus Heaney’s early poems as “bristling with anger and political commitment,” rather than as the even-handed work celebrated in a growing body of critical literature about Ireland’s most recent Nobel laureate. Frazier describes the discomfort that a contemporary academic audience felt before his insistence on the political sources of Heaney’s art. To imply that Heaney writes in anger with his father’s political quiescence, or that his early poems are grounded in a “proud possessive nationalism,” suggests Frazier, is becoming “inadmissible” in the face of critical and popular adoration of the “beloved, genial, Irish ambassador for the art of poetry,” whose work should presumably be viewed as transcending nationalism. In “‘God Save Ireland’: Manchester-Martyr Demonstrations in Dublin, 1867–1916,” Owen McGee traces the developing role of tributes and commemoration dedicated to three Irishmen executed in 1867 in the construction of a potent nationalist political memory and iconography. Thomas Kennedy’s “‘The Gravest Situation of Our Lives’: Conservatives, Ulster, EDITORS’ INTRODUCTION 3 and the Home Rule Crisis, 1911–14” examines the furious resistance to nationalism by unionists and especially by the leaders of the Conservative party in Britain. So pernicious did even constitutional nationalism appear that leading Tories were ready to flout the British constitution in order to thwart home rule. By assessing how the Edwardian Conservative party dismissed Irish nationalism as a cause foisted upon an inherently unequal and ignorant race, Kennedy indicts the political maneuvering by which Conservatives encouraged the development of unionism into a party of negative militancy, whose obsession with imperial unity and partisan advantage effectively undermined Ulster’s future. Other essayists, whether cultural critics or historians, focus on the construction in early and mid-twentieth-century Ireland of a nativist agenda in the political and cultural arenas. In “Divisions Within the Irish Government over Land-Distribution Policy, 1940–70,” historian David Seth Jones foregrounds persistent political attempts to undermine land policies encouraging small (and economically inefficient) farms and a traditional rural social system. He seeks to explain why the traditional regime was so long maintained in spite of sharp criticism from some government ministers. Whereas Jones’s research challenges easy assumptions about a single uncontested national agenda after independence, literary historian and critic James M. Smith depicts an ominously monolithic nativist policy in Ireland after 1922. In “Remembering Ireland’s Architecture of Containment : ‘Telling’ Stories in The Butcher Boy and States of Fear,” Smith argues that de Valera’s idealized vision of a wholesome rural Irish population encouraged the brutal incarceration of many citizens who did not fit such nativist ideals—for example, unwed mothers, illegitimate children , orphans, and the socially transgressive. Two contributors examine the thorny relationship between nationalism and gender. James MacPherson’s “‘Ireland Begins in the Home’: Women, Irish National Identity, and the Domestic Sphere in the Irish Homestead, 1896–1912,” contests assumptions that the creation of a female domestic sphere in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries excluded Irish women from political and social arenas. Examining columns in the Irish Homestead from its founding in 1896, MacPherson argues that the agendas of its editors and writers placed women...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1550-5162
Print ISSN
0013-2683
Pages
pp. 3-5
Launched on MUSE
2017-08-31
Open Access
No
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