CULTURE AND ANARCHY IN IRELAND 1890-1939 by F. S. L. Lyons

CULTURE AND ANARCHY IN IRELAND 1890-1939

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In six short, tight essays based on his Ford Lectures at Oxford in 1978, Professor Lyons, one of Ireland's leading political historians, provocatively examines the clash of four cultures--English, Anglo-Irish, Gaelic, and Ulster Protestant--in the development of modern Ireland. Much of Lyons' analysis focuses on the increasing conflict of (Protestant) Anglo-Irish tradition with (Catholic) Gaelic culture in the half-century from the fall of Parnell to the death of Yeats. The period began with the promise of nonsectarian nationalism and cultural fusion--as a revolt against the widespread dissemination of English culture in Ireland in the 19th century--but ended with the virtual obliteration of the Anglo-Irish as a force in Irish art and politics, and the emergence of a parochial nationalism dominated by the Church. Lyons first traces this conflict within the Irish literary revival at the turn of the century, where Anglo-Irish cosmopolitan aesthetics, oriented toward the creation of great Irish literature in English, diverged sharply from the aims of Gaelic cultural nationalism, which rejected any art (e.g., Synge's plays) that did not fit an idealized cultural stereotype. The alliance of Catholicism with what Lyons terms ""Gaelicism"" (the Irish-language movement and political nationalism) effectively dashed Anglo-Irish hopes of fusion, first in the arts and later in the political arena. In an essay titled ""The Revolutionary Generation,"" Lyons examines the Easter Rising of 1916 as an extreme extension of Gaelicism and republicanism within a Catholic mystical framework. With the hardening of nationalist militancy thereafter, the Anglo-Irish became even more isolated; and the British government's failure to devise a form of Home Rule which would contain Ulster within an Irish State rendered the Anglo-Irish a small and impotent minority. By the end of the half-century, the Irish Free State had turned in upon itself in an attempt to find a cultural as well as a political independence on a Gaelic-Catholic model. Though the condensation required by the lecture format is sometimes regrettable--the cultural underpinnings of the Ulster problem, in particular, are scanted--these essays succeed admirably in presenting an overview without being superficial, and fruitfully complement political histories of the period.

Pub Date: Jan. 31st, 1980
Publisher: Oxford Univ, Press