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Excerpt: "Critics have several names for the movement that took place in Ireland at the turn of the twentieth century. Each name seems to suggest a different interpretation of the events at that time, and each interpretation, in turn, reflects a different idea of Ireland’s relationship with the rest of the world. The Irish Revival, a term most often used to discuss the literary movement, implies that the greatness of a people can be resuscitated after it has been nearly lost, and is thus a term in keeping with a nationalist agenda. The Celtic Twilight, a term coined by W. B. Yeats, is a more sentimental and mystical rendering that suggests the illumination and reinterpretation of a previously underappreciated culture, and is a term in keeping with the transition from a romanticized concept of tradition to a modernist consciousness. The Irish Renaissance seems to be the term currently used most often, a term that appears to acknowledge the colonial (and postcolonial) implications of Irish history. Implying rebirth and renewal, a new beginning rather than a resuscitation, the term “renaissance” carries plenty of political resonance especially when deployed to refer to a movement that coincides with the various cultural elements of nationalism beyond literature. In fact, the use of “renaissance” seems to conflate the events that move from nationalism, through modernity, to postcolonialism. There is, then, a certain tension in the ways these terms are deployed, particularly when we examine the terms against each other and against the way “renaissance” is used traditionally."


Originally published as chapter seven of Other Renaissances: A New Approach to World Literature, edited by Brenda Deen Schildgen, Gang Zhou, and Sander L. Gilman. Palgrave/Macmillan, May 2007.

ISBN 978-0-230-60189-5