Daniel Corkery was the most influential and provocative cultural critic of the early Irish Free State. Since the 1960s, Corkery’s name, however, has become increasingly synonymous with a narrow-gauge nationalism that, in the eyes of many, has sought to stifle an emerging ‘modern’ Ireland. This publication makes the case for a reassessment of Corkery’s cultural criticism, and reveals that the commonplace depiction of a parochial and racist Corkery, while not entirely groundless, is based on a reading of his critical writings that is both selective and reductive. Corkery’s cultural criticism is viewed in this book, not as the product of a backward-looking and insular nationalism, but as intellectual work within an international context of anti-colonialism.
This collection of Corkery’s writings is a testimony to the sheer productivity of his eighty and more years. This book brings together oft-cited published material, that is no longer easily available, and unpublished manuscripts from the Corkery archive. The result is an edited collection that both reveals the central and recurring concerns of Corkery’s critical writings, and offers a unique insight into his wide-ranging cultural interests. Included in the collection are key chapters from The Hidden Ireland and Synge and Anglo-Irish Literature, newspaper articles, literature reviews, a previously-unpublished essay and a radio broadcast. The book concludes with a selection of contemporary responses to Corkery’s critical writings. This section of the book clearly indicates the strong reactions, both positive and negative, that his work originally elicited and allows the reader to situate Corkery within the intellectual debates of his day.
Heather Laird is a lecturer in the School of English, University College Cork