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By L. Harte

Sleek Irish Autobiography presents the 1st entire assessment of the Irish autobiographical culture because it has got expression in either Irish and English from the nineteenth-century to the current day. that includes unique essays by way of top Irish, British and American critics, the booklet combines traditionally grounded analyses of key tendencies and topics with theoretically proficient readings of canonical and non-canonical texts. Focusing almost always on written autobiography, the amount locates Ireland's autobiographers of their old, literary and ideological contexts and surveys the wealthy variety in their success.

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Sample text

The Ireland they critique is too repressive, too Catholic, too indifferent to its poor. In its place they seek a pluralistic and tolerant society, hospitable to artistic achievement and to social idealism. In essence, then, these writers define their ‘Irishness’ as a political act to enable a cultural, religious and social transformation of Ireland. Premised on a view of Irish autobiography as both cultural narrative and personal document, the first section of this chapter describes the discourses of colonialism and nationalism against which these autobiographies are written.

Instead of using Arnold’s essentialism to justify the colonial relationship, Irish nationalists used his formulation to validate their own claims to self-government. It was reasonable and appropriate for Ireland to seek independence, they argued, because it was inherently different from (and better than) Britain. A crucially important agency for the dissemination of this nationalist variant of Celticism was the Irish Literary Revival, a diffuse body of cultural activities that ranged from the teaching of Irish through the Gaelic League to the gathering, recording and publication of Irish myths, legends and folktales.

She has ceased to wail – she is beginning to make up a record of English crime and Irish suffering, in order to explain the past, justify the present, and caution the future. She begins to study the past – not to acquire a beggar’s eloquence in petition, but a hero’s wrath in strife. (Davis, 1910: 83) From here it is not difficult to imagine the coincidence of the destiny of the nation and the destiny of the individual national hero. Of course, nationalism was not the only form of political movement that deployed autobiography to such effect.

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