The nineteenth century witnessed the growth of Irish cultural nationalism as a dominant force in the country's political and literary life. Remembrance and Imagination is a major study which charts the development and impact of a national self-image through key texts and key episodes, and does so by placing the history of two cultural spheres side by side: literature and historical scholarship. The literary and discursive work of writers like Lady Morgan, Maturin, Thomas Moore, Thomas Davis, Yeats and Synge is placed against the background of contemporary debates concerning the true historical and cultural identity of Ireland while developments in the historical sciences are traced in their impact on the literary imagination. Special attention is given to the influential scholar George Petrie and to the far-ranging and persistent controversy concerning the Round Towers. The Irish self-image in the nineteenth century attempted to formulate permanence, tradition and continuity in the face of historical and political divisions and incoherence. The cultivation of a glorified past and of an idyllic peasantry are central preoccupations in Irish national thought. This book analyses the discourse, the rhetoric the stereotypes and the ingrained attitudes with which those preoccupations were invested, both in literature and historical scholarship. The book closes with a re-interpretation of the position of Synge and Joyce in repudiating the nineteenth-century schemata of representing Ireland.
Joep Leerssen, Professor of European Studies, University of Amsterdam