Around the end of the nineteenth century, a group of Catholic and Anglo-Protestant writers dramatically modernised Irish writing. Having spent time in Paris and London and influenced by contemporary European literature, authors such as W.B. Yeats, J.M. Synge, and Lady Gregory refashioned ancient Irish myths and legends and depicted the hard, unromantic lives of the poor deprived classes in the cities and countryside. This well-spring of writing came to be known as the Irish Literary Revival.
Ireland was in a time of immense social and political upheaval. The Irish Home Rule movement led by Charles Stewart Parnell agitated for a looser relationship to Britain. Parnell’s downfall through a scandalous affair with Kitty O’Shea shaped the political sensibilities of these writers. Through these difficult years of political chaos, Yeats’s prose writings and lectures channelled the public’s mixed feelings of nationalism, its potential and its risks, as did his love poems to Maud Gonne, a strikingly beautiful nationalist and organiser who seemed to embody the spirit of young Ireland.
With Lady Gregory, a wealthy patron of the arts, Yeats established the Irish National Theatre Society (later the Abbey Theatre). Cathleen ni Houlihan, their highly nationalist play, received a tumultuous reception and J.M. Synge’s The Playboy of the Western World (1907) led to riots due to its depictions of Irish womanhood. With a strong focus on writings in dialects of Hiberno-English, the Abbey was a crucible in which the debates about Irish cultural identity were enacted.
We will follow these writers up to the Easter Rising of 1916, commemorated by Yeats in his famous poem, the moment when the Irish Literary Revival was left behind and the War of Independence from Britain began.
Please note: this event will close to enrolments at 23:59 UTC on 29 November 2023.