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Irish Revival, The

History of Ireland, The Spirit of the Nation, Poems and Ballads of Young Ireland

ireland yeats movement theatre

a major movement of cultural nationalism in Ireland which began in the 1880s and retained much of its energy until the late 1920s. Standish O'Grady (18461928) is regarded as its principal progenitor, his two-volume History of Ireland (1878, 1880) having made much of Ireland's ancient mythical and legendary material widely available. Other precursors of the Revival include the poets of the Young Ireland movement of the 1840s, whose popular anthology The Spirit of the Nation (1843) contained sentimentally patriotic verse; Samuel Ferguson (181086), William Allingham (182489), and Thomas Moore (17791852) had also produced poetry of an emphatically Irish character. John O'Leary (18301907), a former Fenian activist, became the mentor of W. B. Yeats and others whose verse was collected in Poems and Ballads of Young Ireland (1888), the publication of which inaugurated the Irish Revival. Yeats's The Wanderings of Oisin (1889) and Douglas Hyde's translations of traditional stories in Beside the Fire (1890) contributed to the movement's emergence. The fall of Parnell in 1891 left Ireland politically directionless, with the result that nationalist commitment was diverted into cultural channels. In 1892 Yeats was pre-eminent in the formation of the Irish Literary Society in London and the National Literary Society in Dublin; these bodies provided a focus for the activities of Yeats, Hyde, George ‘AE’ Russell, Lady Augusta Gregory, Katharine Tynan, and others, whose writings reflected their common belief that authentically Irish qualities remained present in the indigenous rural communities. Hyde founded the Gaelic League in 1893, which widely promoted theIrish language and other cultural pursuits. By the late 1890s the Irish Revival had a broad popular base in the many societies and clubs to which it had given rise. A further significant development was the establishment of the Irish Literary Theatre in 1899, which became the Irish National Theatre Society in 1903 and was known as the Abbey Theatre Company from 1904 onwards; works by Yeats, John Synge, Sean O'Casey, G. B. Shaw, and Padraic Colum made drama the predominant form of Irish Revival literature from 1900 onwards, while George Moore's The Untilled Field (1899) initiated the growth of its prose fiction. The nationalist consciousness generated by the movement culminated in the political events by which Ireland secured independence in 1921. During the later 1920s writers began to react against the Revival's conventions of Irishness, which nevertheless provided a starting point for the works of numerous notable authors, among them Flann O'Brien, Austin Clarke, Patrick Kavanagh, and Frank O'Connor. Critical surveys of the Irish Revival include R. Fallis's The Irish Renaissance (1977) and W. I. Thompson's The Imagination of an Insurrection (1967).

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