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Title: Inventing 'Northern Ireland' : partition and the limits of Ulster regionalism
Author: Burgess, Mary Ann
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2002
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A Northern dimension to Irish literature did not spring fully-formed into existence in 1968. This thesis retrieves from the canonical shadows the range of the Northern contribution to the Literary Revival in Ireland. Further, it attempts to show how the achievements of such writers and cultural activists as Alice Milligan, Francis Joseph Bigger, Gerald MacNamara and Joseph Campbell intersected with and critiqued the Revival as it was unfolding in Dublin, particularly in the development of a national drama. This small Northern intelligentists, largely based in Belfast, played a vital role in the development of an Irish cultural manifesto which was intended to be pluralist, modern and anti-sectarian. Belfast, the only city in Ireland to have undergone an Industrial Revolution, was in many ways the most ‘modern’ of Irish cities, and its nationalist writers faced very different political circumstances from their Southern counterparts. Their work reflected this. Milligan, Bigger and MacNamara were all Ulster protestants: they sought (unsuccessfully in the end) to secure Ulster protestantism’s place in the Revival. Milligan combined republicanism with poetry, history, drama and journalism. Bigger constructed a material past for the North in his work as an antiquarian and writer. Macnamara satirized the occult excesses of Yeatsian Celticism, and wrote plays which were hugely popular, yet formally innovative. He was strongly influenced by developments in European drama, particularly expressionism. Joseph Campbell, one of the few catholics prominent in the cultural Revival in the North, wrote a poetry which prefigured that of Padraic Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh and Patrick Kavanagh, but also of poets of the ‘second’ Northern Revival, John Montague and Seamus Heaney. The second part of the dissertation and the introductory chapter argue that the advent in Ireland and Partition in 1921 was the reason that this Northern aspect to the Revival has been all but forgotten. Not only did these writers disappear from the Irish literary scene, later the canon, but their main achievement - the creation of a strong Ulster regionalism which was nonetheless firmly nationalist - was assimilated and re-developed by an Ulster Unionist establishment busy inventing Northern Ireland.  Thus, after 1921, now divested of its national foundations, Ulster regionalism became a cultural ballast to partition. The poetry of John Hewitt is examined in this context, alongside the development of a partitionist geography, archaeology and historiography. Finally, it is argued that the nationalist legacies of these early Ulster regionalists were recuperated and reconfigured in the work of Northern catholic John Montague in the 1950s and 60s, culminating in his long poem The Rough Field (1972). In many ways, then, this dissertation seeks in the library and cultural-political history of the North of Ireland during the Revival a proper and hitherto unexplored context in which to read post-1968 Northern poetry.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral