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The politics of enchantment
Author: Tara Stubbs

American literature and Irish culture, 1910–1955: the politics of enchantment discusses how and why American modernist writers turned to Ireland at various stages during their careers. By placing events such as the Celtic Revival and the Easter Rising at the centre of the discussion, it shows how Irishness became a cultural determinant in the work of American modernists. Each chapter deals with a different source of influence, considering the impact of family, the Celtic Revival, rural mythmaking, nationalist politics and the work of W. B. Yeats on American modernists’ writings. It is the first study to extend the analysis of Irish influence on American literature beyond racial, ethnic or national frameworks.

Through close readings, a sustained focus on individual writers, and in-depth archival research, American literature and Irish culture, 1910–1955 provides a balanced and structured approach to the study of the complexities of American modernist writers’ responses to Ireland. Offering new readings of familiar literary figures – including Fitzgerald, Moore, O’Neill, Steinbeck and Stevens – it makes for essential reading for students and academics working on twentieth-century American and Irish literature and culture, and transatlantic studies.

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'Why do we like being Irish?'
Tara Stubbs
in American literature and Irish culture, 1910–55
Tara Stubbs

A study of American modernism and Irish culture must necessarily begin with a consideration of family. The affiliations and disaffiliations to Ireland experienced by the American writers discussed in this chapter reveal a reading of ‘family’ as literal and metaphorical, as each writer negotiates his relationship with Ireland. Each writer discussed – Fitzgerald, Steinbeck, Moore and O’Neill – experiences a nuanced and often troubling relationship with Ireland – thanks to family connections that are sometimes enhanced, and at other times played down, according to complex channels of racial and cultural influence and interference.

in American literature and Irish culture, 1910–55
Tara Stubbs

It is easy, particularly within contemporary critical circles, to dismiss Celticism as a fanciful, archaic construction. But for some American modernist writers, the enchantment of Celticism – as conveyed and celebrated by the Revivalists – offered a certain promise despite, or even because of, its unreality. The efforts of W. B. Yeats, Lady Gregory, Douglas Hyde and J. M. Synge from the late 1880s onwards had done much to revive American writers’ interest in Celtic culture – and to establish a Celtic ideal that influenced different social groups. This chapter therefore discusses the cultural interpretation of Celticism that was pervasive in American modernist circles, as writers like Moore, Steinbeck and Stevens became inspired by the folklore and history surrounding the Revival.

in American literature and Irish culture, 1910–55
Tara Stubbs

The efforts of the Celtic Revivalists had done much to persuade American writers that Ireland was a rural idyll – even if this was largely due to a fantastic reading of the Irish countryside and its inhabitants. When American modernists turn to the Irish landscape in their writing, therefore, we find a contemplation of this rural myth of Ireland that is by turns naïve and knowing, enchanted by the promise of a bucolic haven and either indulging knowingly in the construction of the myth or deriving pleasure from its unreality. This chapter describes how this preoccupation with the rural, and a comparative disinterest (or even disgust) in the urban, shaped the ways in which American poets including Moore, Bishop, Whitman and Stevens, and writers Bogan and Steinbeck, responded to, and translated, the Irish landscape within their works.

in American literature and Irish culture, 1910–55
Tara Stubbs

Yeats’s poem ‘Easter 1916’ marks a movement within his own work from a declared position of non-involvement with politics to one through which he writes himself into the rhetoric of events. Only the year before the Easter Rising, Yeats had famously abstained from commenting on the events of the First World War with his poem ‘On Being Asked for a War Poem’. But ‘Easter 1916’ reflects the poet’s attempt to shape political events according to his own desires for his monument of verse. The ‘terrible beauty’ that Yeats identifies as the unfortunate progeny of the Rising signals beyond the violence and change that political events have engendered, a re-birth of poetic expression that brings the dual modes of enchantment and disenchantment to the fore. This chapter assesses the extent of enchantment and disenchantment with Ireland in political poems by Americans Lola Ridge and Marianne Moore between 1917 and 1941, read against the contexts of the Rising, Irish nationalism and the Second World War. And, in using ‘Easter 1916’ as a model, it also asks to what extent a poet, even when writing a political poem, is always writing for herself.

in American literature and Irish culture, 1910–55
Tara Stubbs

In the modernist period, the ways in which American writers made use of Yeats differed from individual to individual: as each grappled with the impact of Yeats’s poetry and writings on their own work. This chapter therefore takes as its focus individual poets and critics who engaged directly with Yeats as man and poet. It considers, through Moore, the 1910s to early 1930s when his star was in the ascendant in America; through Berryman and Bogan, the mid to late 1930s when Yeats and others were contemplating his legacy; and through Deutsch, the decades immediately following his death. This biographical and critical framework allows for an assessment of influence as both direct and active – in the physical presence of the living (or recently dead) poet – and poetic and allusive, in the shadowing of the poet’s works in the works of the poets who follow him. But the story necessarily begins with the moment(s) that Yeats’s writings were first introduced to his American readers.

in American literature and Irish culture, 1910–55
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Cultural credibility in America's Ireland - and Ireland's America
Tara Stubbs
in American literature and Irish culture, 1910–55