- Irish literature
The island's most widely-known literary works are undoubtedly in English. Particularly famous examples of such works are those of
James Joyce, Oscar Wilde, and Ireland's four winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature; William Butler Yeats, George Bernard Shaw, Samuel Beckettand Seamus Heaney. Ireland's oldest literary traditions, however, are found in the Irish language, referred to simply as "Irish". Indeed, Irish has the third oldest literature in Europe(after Greek and Latin) [http://www.krysstal.com/langfams_indoeuro.html] and the most significant body of written literature (both ancient and recent) of any Celtic language. Furthermore, the historic influence of Irish languagetraditions, such as a strong oral traditionof legends and poetry, has helped make much English Literaturein Ireland quite distinctive from that in other countries. From the older tradition, many Irish writers in English inherited a sense of wonder in the face of nature, a narrative style that tends towards the deliberately exaggerated or absurd and a keen sense of the power of satire. In addition, the interplay between the two languages has resulted in an English dialect, Hiberno-English, that lends a distinctive syntaxand music to the literature written in it.
Irish poetryhas a long and complex history. Ireland has one of the oldest vernacular literatureand poetry traditions in Europeand represents a more or less unbroken cycle from the 6th century to the present day. In addition, since at least the 14th century, poetry in English has also been written in Ireland and by Irish writers abroad.
During the late Middle Ages, the old Gaelic order that had supported the old professional
bards broke down, and Irish language poetry started to become marginalised and by the 19th century had entered the realm of folk art.
The 18th century witnessed both a late flowering of bardic poetry and song and the first major Irish poets in English,
Jonathan Swiftand Oliver Goldsmith.
In the 19th century, Irish poets writing in English set out to reinvent the Gaelic tradition in the new language, frequently translating bardic and other early Irish poets and retelling stories from
Celtic mythologyin Victorian verse. This trend resulted in the early work of W. B. Yeats.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Yeats' style changed under the influence of his contact with
modernism. The generation of Irish poets that followed Yeats were, to simplify, divided between those who were influenced by his early Celtic style and those who followed such modernist figures as James Joyceand Samuel Beckett, both of whom wrote poetry as well as their better known fiction and drama.
During the course of the 20th century, the influence of Yeats has tended to dominate, either as a role model or as someone to rebel against. However, this period also saw the emergence of such significant figures as
Patrick Kavanagh, Seamus Heaneyand Brian Coffey. This period also saw a revival of poetry in Irish, at least partly as a result of government policy decisions in support of the language.
Although the epics of Medieval Ireland were written in prose and not verse, most people would probably consider that
Irish fictionproper begins in the 18th century with the works of Jonathan Swift(especially " Gulliver's Travels") and Oliver Goldsmith(especially " The Vicar of Wakefield").
A number of Irish novelists emerged during the 19th century, including
Maria Edgeworth, John Banim, Gerald Griffin, Charles Kickham, William Carleton, George Moore and Somerville and Ross. Most of these writers came from the ruling classes and they wrote what came to be termed "novels of the big house". Carleton was an exception, and his "Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry" showed life on the other side of the social divide. Bram Stoker, the Anglicanauthor of " Dracula", was outside both traditions, as was at least the early work of Lord Dunsany.
George Moore spent much of his early career in
Parisand was one of the first writers to use the techniques of the French realist novelists in English. He can be seen as one of the precursors of the most famous Irish novelist of the 20th century, James Joyce. Joyce is often regarded as the father of the literary genre"stream of consciousness" which is best exemplified in his famous work, "Ulysses". Joyce also wrote " Finnegans Wake", " Dubliners", and the semi-autobiographical " A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man". Joyce's high moderniststyle had its influence on coming generations of Irish novelists, most notably Samuel Beckett, Brian O'Nolan, who published as Flann O'Brienand Myles na gCopaleen, and Aidan Higgins. O'Nolan was bilingual and his fiction clearly shows the mark of the native tradition, particularly in the imaginative quality of his storytelling and the biting edge of his satire. Cathal Ó Sándair(1922-1996), one of the most prolific Irish language authors, produced over one hundred novels, many of them westerns featuring cowboys and gun fights. Born in Weston Super Mare, England to an English father and Irish mother, his family moved to Ireland when he was a child. His first novel appeared in 1943 and featured Réics Carló, the most famous Irish language detective.
The big house novel prospered into the 20th century, and Aidan Higgins' first novel "
Langrishe, Go Down" is an experimental example of the "genre". More conventional exponents include Elizabeth Bowenand Molly Keane(writing as M.J. Farrell).
With the rise of the
Irish Free Stateand the Republic of Ireland, more novelists from the lower social classes began to emerge. Frequently, these authors wrote of the narrow, circumscribed lives of the lower-middle classes and small farmers. Exponents of this style range from Brinsley McNamarato John McGahern.
short storyhas also proven popular with Irish fiction writers. Well known short story writers include Frank O'Connorand Sean O'Faolain.
Although the documented history of
Irish theatrebegan at least as early as 1601, the earliest Irish dramatists of note were William Congreve, one of the most interesting writers of Restoration comedies, and Oliver Goldsmithand Richard Brinsley Sheridan, who were two of the most successful playwrights on the Londonstage in the 18th century.
In the 19th century,
Dion Boucicaultwas an extremely popular writer of comedies. However, it was in the last decade of the century that the Irish theatre finally came of age with the emergence of George Bernard Shawand Oscar Wildeand the establishment in Dublinin 1899 of the Irish Literary Theatre.
This last company, later to become the
Abbey Theatre, performed plays by W.B. Yeats, Lady Gregory, John Millington Synge, and Sean O'Casey. Equally importantly, through the introduction by Yeats, via Ezra Pound, of elements of the Nohtheatre of Japan, a tendency to mythologise quotidian situations, and a particularly strong focus on writings in dialects of Hiberno-English, the Abbey was to create a style that held a strong fascination for future Irish dramatists.
The twentieth century saw a number of Irish playwrights come to prominence. These included
Samuel Beckett, Brendan Behan, Denis Johnston, Brian Friel, Frank McGuinness, Thomas Kilroy, Tom Murphy, Hugh Leonard, and John B. Keane. There was also a rise in the writing of plays in Irish, especially after the formation, in 1928, of An Taibhdhearc, a theatre dedicated to the Irish language. The Gate Theatre, also founded in 1928 by Micheál MacLiammóir, introduced Irish audiences to many of the classics of the Irish and European stage.
Since the 1970s, a number of companies have emerged to challenge the Abbey's dominance and introduce different styles and approaches. These include
Focus Theatre, The Children's T Company, the Project Theatre Company, Druid Theatre, Rough Magic, TEAM, Charabanc, and Field Day. These companies have nurtured a number of writers, actors, and directors who have since gone on to be successful in London, Broadway and Hollywood.
* Brady, Anne & Cleeve, Brian (1985). "Biographical Dictionary of Irish Writers". Lilliput. ISBN 0946640114
* Jeffares, A. Norman (1997). "A Pocket History of Irish Literature". O'Brien Press. ISBN 0862785022
* Welsh, Robert (ed.) & Stewart, Bruce (ed.) (1996). "The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature". Clarendon Press. ISBN 0198661584
* [http://www.ucc.ie/celt/ CELT: The online resource for Irish history, literature and politics]
* [http://www.biblioireland.com Biblio Ireland: An authoritative guide to a vast range of Irish books. ]
* [http://www.libraryireland.com Library Ireland: Rare, out-of-print Irish publications online.. ]
* [http://www.dublinquarterly.com/index.html Dublin Quarterly]
* [http://www.sfx.ie/page0007.htm Irish Theatre Resource]
* [http://www.irishplayography.com The Irish Playography database]
* [http://www.irelandliteratureguide.com Ireland Literature Guide]
* [http://www.irishwriters-online.com/index.html Irish Writers Online]
* [http://www.cormacmillar.com/Link-IrishCrimeWriters.html Irish crime writers]
* [http://www.irishreader.com/index.htm Extracts from New Irish books]
List of Irish poets
Old Irish literature
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