A radical new assessment of cultural transformation and conflict in early modern Ireland.
Both Old and New English writers used the metaphor of 'Circe's cup' to conjure up the bewitching, seductive, and corrupting influence that they attributed to Irish culture. This metaphor for the loss of human identity - men turned to swine through intercourse with a corrupting female outsider - works as a part of the ethnographic rhetoric that attempts to establish the fixed difference of English versus Irish, and civilian versus barbarian in order to rationalize political and economic domination. The events through which such domination was achieved and resisted - the plantations, wars, and consequent social upheavals of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries - constitute the transformation analysed in this book.
The cultural changes negotiated in early modern texts on Ireland both give testimony to these events and provide perspectives on them. The eight essays gathered together in this volume investigate the role that writing played in transforming early modern Irish culture - ranging from the analysis of ethnography, to translation, to political philosophy.
Circe's Cup offers a challenging comparative analysis of early modern Ireland - across discourses, disciplines, cultures and languages. The modes of discourse examined here include those controlling differences of gender, religion, and ethnicity. Works of history, poetry, philology and political philosophy are read side by side in terms of how they represent cultural change. Rather than focus solely on English language sources, this study also takes Irish language writing into account. Rather than set Irish and English writers against each other in some kind of false dichotomy, this study compares and contrasts their work to that by French, Spanish, and Italian authors. These essays argue for the need to see similarities between Irish and English texts, in part due to their common European sources, and at the same time not to obscure the sharp and often irreconcilable differences between certain interpretations of these sources.