Literature in Ireland. Studies Irish and Anglo-Irish
Thomas MacDonagh's work of literary criticism.
MacDonagh’s book collects 8 essays (or ‘Studies’ as they are deemed) along with a selection of ‘Poems of the Irish Mode’. Some portions of Literature in Ireland previously appeared in The Irish Review and in An Macaomh (the journal produced by P.H. Pearse at St. Enda’s College) and in The Leader. The ideas in this book were likely rehearsed by MacDonagh during his lectures at University College Dublin. Rumor has it that MacDonagh was correcting the proofs of Literature in Ireland while besieging Jacob’s Biscuit Factory during the days of the Easter Rising. Whereas this anecdote may well be a conflation in biographies and accounts which appeared in the aftermath of the Rising, on the other hand it may testify to the hurried process through which the ‘Studies’ were turned into a book swiftly published a month after MacDonagh’s execution. According to Johann A. Norstedt, the study has several shortcomings, such as MacDonagh’s lack of a critical attitude and method, his moralizing outlook, and his Romantic notion of the poet who is conceptualized as a seer spiritually or divinely inspired. However, Norstedt demonstrates how MacDonaghs’ argumentative approach makes the book iconic and a powerful assertion of Anglo-Irish literature and language as a ‘happy compromise between the Gaelic past and the predominance of English in Ireland’s future’. MacDonagh, in the Preface to Literature in Ireland dated January 1916, sets out to demonstrate three theses in his study:
‘That, an Anglo-Irish Literature, worthy of a special designation, could come only when English had become the language of the Irish people, mainly of Gaelic stock, and when the literature was from, by, of, to and for the Irish people.
That the ways of life and the ways of thought of the Irish people—the manners, customs, traditions, and outlook, religious, social and moral—have important differences from the ways of life and of thought which have found expression in other English literature.
That the English language in Ireland has an individuality of its own, and the rhythm of Irish speech a distinct character.’
MacDonagh, Thomas. Literature in Ireland. Studies in Irish and Anglo-Irish Literature. Dublin: Talbot Press, 1916. Print.
Norstedt, Johann A.. Thomas MacDonagh. A Critical Biography. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1980. Print.
Text Item Type Metadata
- Date Added
- April 20, 2015
- The Literary Career of Thomas MacDonagh
- Item Type
- Criticism, Thomas MacDonagh
- Thomas MacDonagh (1878-1916), “Literature in Ireland. Studies Irish and Anglo-Irish,” Revival to Revolution: The Literary Career of Thomas MacDonagh, accessed May 25, 2020, https://revival2revolution.omeka.net/items/show/1.