The Irish Writer and the City
21.6 x 13.8 cm. x, 203 pp. 1984 Irish Literary Studies series (ISSN 0140-895X) volume 18
The papers in this collection were given at the fifth triennial conference of the International Association for the Study of Anglo-Irish Literature held at University College, Dublin in July 1982.
The theme of the conference – the Irish writer and the city – is one that has not been extensively studied. Traditionally Irish writing has concerned itself with the countryside and the Big House, but as essays in this collection show, there was a hidden literature of the city, particularly in the drama, in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and in the nineteenth the city was a recurrent element in novels from Maria Edgeworth to George Moore. The incidence of urban settings increased in the twentieth century with Belfast, Cork, Dublin and Limerick emerging as challenging centres of literary concern. It is the complex issue of the relationships between the writers and the cities that these essays discuss. The movement of population from the countryside to the cities in the late nineteenth century led to some ambivalence on the part of writers who viewed the urban setting with a distaste that was partly determined by nostalgia for the rural hinterland. Social revolution complicated the problem by reducing the social density and creating a middle class that took some time to assert itself. Eventually ambivalence and distaste were replaced by acceptance or at least by the recognition that the city was home, the world they knew best and could best describe. These essays help us to understand how that confidence developed and to see its thematic, technical and linguistic features. In the process they show that the subject of the Irish writer and the city is well worth examining.