New Book: Ireland, Revolution, and the English Modernist Imagination

By Prof Eve Patten

Oxford University Press

This book asks how English authors of the early to mid-twentieth century responded to the nationalist revolution in neighbouring Ireland in their work, and explores this response as an expression of anxieties about, and aspirations within, England itself. Drawing predominantly on novels of this period, but also on letters, travelogues, literary criticism, and memoir, it illustrates how Irish affairs provided a marginal but pervasive point of reference for a wide range of canonical authors in England, including Wyndham Lewis, Virginia Woolf, D.H. Lawrence, Graham Greene, and Evelyn Waugh, and also for many lesser-known figures such as Ethel Mannin, George Thomson, and T.H. White. The book surveys these and other incidental writers within the broad framework of literary modernism, an arc seen to run in temporal parallel to Ireland’s revolutionary trajectory from rebellion to independence. In this context, it addresses two distinct aspects of the Irish-English relationship as it features in the literature of the time: first, the uneasy recognition of a fundamental similarity between the two countries in terms of their potential for violent revolutionary instability, and second, the proleptic engagement of Irish events to prefigure, imaginatively, the potential course of England’s evolution from the Armistice to the Second World War. Tracing these effects, this book offers a topical renegotiation of the connections between Irish and English literary culture, nationalism, and political ideology, together with a new perspective on the Irish sources engaged by English literary modernism.  

Eve Patten is Professor in the School of English at Trinity College, Dublin. A graduate of Oxford University, she worked for the British Council in Eastern Europe before taking up a lectureship at Trinity in the mid-1990s. She has published widely on Irish and British writing of the modern period, and teaches on nineteenth-century realist fiction, the modern English novel, and Irish cultural and literary history. She was made a Fellow of Trinity College Dublin in 2006, and in 2020 she was appointed as Director of the Trinity Long Room Hub Arts and Humanities Research Institute.

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