Luke Gibbons


    “In using what I considered traditional symbols,” W. B. Yeats observed ruefully toward the end of his life, “I forgot that in Ireland they are not symbols but realities.”1 Culture in these circumstances cannot be reduced to an esthetic pursuit at one remove from reality; it is a material force in its own right, as its role in turn-of-the-century Irish nationalism attests. Indeed the later Yeats was tormented by the thought that some of his plays might have contributed to the violence of the Irish War of Independence, of 1916–22. He may have had in mind not just his incendiary Cathleen ni Houlihan


    SEAMUS DEANE IS IN THE FOREFRONT of the effort to bring contemporary critical theory to bear on cultural debates in Ireland. Born in Derry in 1940, he has been responsible for a body of critical writings tracing the various inscriptions of the Enlightenment and modernity on Irish politics and literature. Internationally, he is known for editing the Field Day pamphlet series, which included essays by Fredric Jameson, Edward Said, Terry Eagleton, Richard Carney, and Declan Kibert (the pamphlets by Jameson, Said, and Eagleton were republished as Nationalism, Colonialism, and Literature by the

  • Private Voices, Public Spheres

    IN SEPTEMBER 1978, Conor Cruise O’Brien, then the editor of the London Observer, registered his strong objections to an article written for his newspaper on the conflict in Northern Ireland. The article, by Mary Holland, discussed the case of Mary Nelis, a working-class woman from a nationalist community in Derry. In Cruise O’Brien’s eyes, Holland’s account was too sympathetic, for, as the mother of three sons serving time for political offenses, Nelis could hardly be seen as an innocent bystander: “Since Irish Republicanism—especially the killing strain in it—has a very high propensity to run

  • the Other Ireland

    We see it often enough: revelations about the private life of a public figure escalate into full-blown political and media spectacles. It also happens, though, that “ordinary” individuals are wrenched from everyday life and projected onto a national stage, as if acting out some deeply repressed anxiety in the social psyche. What was it about narratives of sexuality in Ireland, for example, that earlier this year turned the private trauma of a 14-year-old girl into a crisis that convulsed the entire nation?

    In January, a Dublin schoolgirl, pregnant after an alleged rape by a neighbor, sought

  • The Irish Museum of Modern Art

    I do certainly think that Jackson Pollock is very much in a Celtic mode...his real name was something Irish like McKay.

    —Dorothy Walker

    [Pollock’s paintings are] “world historical” in the Hegelian sense.

    —William Rubin

    IN HIS WAYWARD NOVEL At Swim-Two-Birds, the Irish writer Flann O’Brien introduces a character with an unusual distinction: he was born at the age of 25 and thus “entered the world with a memory but without a personal experience to account for it.”1 The new Irish Museum of Modern Art, in Kilmainham, Dublin, which opened in May, would seem to be in a similar position, laying