Irish literature
Overview
 
For a comparatively small island, Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 has made a disproportionately large contribution to world literature
World literature
World literature refers to literature from all over the world, including African literature, American literature, Arabic literature, Asian literature, Australasian literature, Caribbean Literature, English literature, European literature, Indian literature, Latin American literature, Persian...

. Irish literature encompasses the Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 and English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 languages.
Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 has one of the oldest vernacular literatures in western Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 (after Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 and Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

)http://www.krysstal.com/langfams_indoeuro.html.

The Irish became fully literate with the arrival of Christianity in the fifth century.
Encyclopedia
For a comparatively small island, Ireland
Ireland
Ireland is an island to the northwest of continental Europe. It is the third-largest island in Europe and the twentieth-largest island on Earth...

 has made a disproportionately large contribution to world literature
World literature
World literature refers to literature from all over the world, including African literature, American literature, Arabic literature, Asian literature, Australasian literature, Caribbean Literature, English literature, European literature, Indian literature, Latin American literature, Persian...

. Irish literature encompasses the Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 and English
English language
English is a West Germanic language that arose in the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms of England and spread into what was to become south-east Scotland under the influence of the Anglian medieval kingdom of Northumbria...

 languages.

The beginning of writing in Irish

Irish
Irish language
Irish , also known as Irish Gaelic, is a Goidelic language of the Indo-European language family, originating in Ireland and historically spoken by the Irish people. Irish is now spoken as a first language by a minority of Irish people, as well as being a second language of a larger proportion of...

 has one of the oldest vernacular literatures in western Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

 (after Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

 and Latin
Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

)http://www.krysstal.com/langfams_indoeuro.html.

The Irish became fully literate with the arrival of Christianity in the fifth century. Before that time a simple writing system known as "ogham" was used for inscriptions. The introduction of Latin led to the adaption of the Latin alphabet to the Irish language and the rise of a small literate class, both clerical and lay.

Early and medieval literature

The earliest Irish literature consisted of original lyric poetry and versions of ancient prose tales. The earliest poetry, composed in the 6th century, illustrates a vivid religious faith or describe the world of nature, and was sometimes written in the margins of illuminated manuscripts. Unusually among European epic cycles, the Irish sagas (such as Táin Bó Cúailnge
Táin Bó Cúailnge
is a legendary tale from early Irish literature, often considered an epic, although it is written primarily in prose rather than verse. It tells of a war against Ulster by the Connacht queen Medb and her husband Ailill, who intend to steal the stud bull Donn Cuailnge, opposed only by the teenage...

) were written in prose, with verse interpolations expressing heightened emotion. Although usually found in recensions of the later medieval period, these works are linguistically archaic, and thus throw light on pre-Christian Ireland.

After the Old Irish period, there is a vast range of poetry from medieval and Renaissance times. By degrees the Irish created a classical tradition in their own language, though they continued to use Latin. Verse remained the main vehicle of literary expression, and by the 12th century questions of form and style had been essentially settled, with little change until the 17th century.

The literary language (known in English as Classical Irish), was a sophisticated medium with elaborate verse forms, and was taught in bardic schools (i.e. academies of higher learning) both in Ireland and Scotland. These produced historians, lawyers and a professional literary class which depended on the aristocracy for patronage. Much of the writing produced in this period was conventional in character, in praise of patrons and their families, but the best of it was of exceptionally high quality and included poetry of a personal nature. Gofraidh Fionn Ó Dálaigh
Gofraidh Fionn Ó Dálaigh
Gofraidh Fionn Ó Dálaigh was an Irish poet and Chief Ollam of Ireland.-Biography:Gofraidh Fionn was a member of the Ó Dálaigh family of poets. He is known for his poem, Filidh Éireann go haointeach, which commemorates An Nollaig na Garma...

 (14th century), Tadhg Óg Ó Huiginn (15th century) and Eochaidh Ó Heóghusa (16th century) were among the most distinguished of these poets. Every noble family possessed a body of manuscripts containing genealogical and other material, and the work of the best poets was used for teaching purposes in the bardic schools. In this hierarchical society, fully trained poets belonged to the highest stratum; they were court officials but were thought to still possess ancient magical powers.

Women were largely excluded from the official literature, though female aristocrats could be formidable patrons in their own right. An example is the 15th century noblewoman Mairgréag Ní Cearbhaill, praised by the learned for her extraordinary hosptiality. At that level a certain number of women were literate, and some were contributors to an unofficial corpus of courtly love poetry known as dánta grádha.

Prose continued to be cultivated in the medieval period in the form of tales. The Norman invasion of the 12th century introduced a new body of stories which influenced the Irish tradition, and in time translations were made from English.

The early modern period

The 17th century saw the tightening of English control over Ireland and the suppression of the traditional aristocracy. This meant that the literary class lost its patrons, since the new nobility were English speakers with little sympathy for the older culture. The elaborate classical metres lost their dominance and were largely replaced by more popular forms. This was an age of social and political tension, expressed with power and anguish by Dáibhí Ó Bruadair
Dáibhí Ó Bruadair
Dáibhí Ó Bruadair was one of the most significant Irish language poets of the 17th century. He lived through a momentous time in Irish history and his work serves as testimony to the death of the old Irish cultural and political order and the decline in respect for the once honoured and feared...

, an outstanding poet, and by the anonymous authors of Pairliment Chloinne Tomáis, a corrosive prose satire on the aspirations of the lower classes. Prose of another sort was represented by the elegant historical works of Geoffrey Keating
Geoffrey Keating
Seathrún Céitinn, known in English as Geoffrey Keating, was a 17th century Irish Roman Catholic priest, poet and historian. He was born in County Tipperary c. 1569, and died c. 1644...

 and the great compilation known as the Annals of the Four Masters
Annals of the Four Masters
The Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland or the Annals of the Four Masters are a chronicle of medieval Irish history...

.

The consequences of these changes were seen in the 18th century, when the sophistication of the old high tradition reappeared at a popular level. Poetry was still the dominant literary medium and its practitioners were poor scholars, often educated in the classics at obscure local schools and themselves often schoolmasters by trade. Such writers produced work of great refinement in popular metres for a local audience. This was particularly the case in Munster, in the south-west of Ireland, and notable names included Eoghan Rua Ó Súilleabháin and Aogán Ó Rathaile. A certain number of local patrons were still to be found, even in the early 19th century, and especially among the few surviving families of the Gaelic aristocracy.

Irish was still an urban language, and continued to be so well into the 19th century. In the first half of the 18th century Dublin was the home of an Irish-language literary circle connected to the Ó Neachtain (Naughton) family, a group with wide-ranging Continental connections.

There is little evidence of female literacy for this period, but women were of great importance in the oral tradition. They were the dominant composers of traditional laments, which contain some of the most intense poetry in the language. The most famous of these laments is Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire
Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire
Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire or the Lament for Art Ó Laoghaire is an Irish keen, or dirge written by his wife Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill. It has been described as the greatest poem written in either Ireland or Britain during the eighteenth century....

, composed in the late 18th century by Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill
Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill
Eibhlín Dubh Ní Chonaill also Eileen O' Connell, was an Irish noblewoman and poet, the composer of Caoineadh Airt Uí Laoghaire....

, one of the last of the Gaelic gentry of West Kerry. Compositions of this sort were not committed to writing until collected in the 19th century.

The manuscript tradition

Well after the introduction of printing to Ireland, works in Irish continued to to be disseminated in manuscript form.

Access to the printing press was hindered in the 1500s and the 1600s by official caution, although an Irish version of the Bible (known as Bedell
William Bedell
William Bedell was an Anglican churchman.-Early life:He was born at Black Notley in Essex, and educated at Emmanuel College, Cambridge, where he was a pupil of William Perkins. He became a fellow of Emmanuel in 1593, and took orders...

's Bible after the Anglican clergyman who commissioned it) was published in the 17th century. A number of popular works in Irish, both devotional and secular, were available in print by the early 19th century, but the manuscript remained the most affordable means of transmission almost until the end of the century.

Manuscripts were collected by literate individuals (schoolmasters, farmers and others) and were copied and recopied. They might include material several centuries old. Access to them was not confined to the literate: the contents were read aloud at local gatherings, thus exposing even the illiterate to the riches of the literature. This was still the case in the late 19th century in Irish-speaking districts.

Manuscripts were often taken abroad, particularly to America
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. In the 19th century many of these were collected by individuals or cultural institutions.

Modern writing

In the 19th century English was well the way to becoming the dominant vernacular. Down until the Great Famine
Great Famine
Great Famine may refer to any of several historical famines:* The Great Famine of 1315–1317 in northern Europe* The Great India Famine of 1344-1345...

 of the 1840s, however, and even later, Irish was still used over large areas of the south-west, the west and the north-west.

A famous long poem from the beginning of the century is Cúirt an Mheán Oíche (The Midnight Court), a vigorous and inventive satire by Brian Merriman
Brian Merriman
Brian Merriman or in Irish Brian Mac Giolla Meidhre was an Irish language poet and teacher. His single surviving work of substance, the 1000-line long Cúirt An Mheán Oíche is widely regarded as the greatest comic poem in the history of Irish literature.-Merriman's life:Merriman appears to have...

 from County Clare
County Clare
-History:There was a Neolithic civilisation in the Clare area — the name of the peoples is unknown, but the Prehistoric peoples left evidence behind in the form of ancient dolmen; single-chamber megalithic tombs, usually consisting of three or more upright stones...

. The copying of manuscripts continued unabated, and one such collection was in the possession of Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin
Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin
Amhlaoibh Ó Súilleabháin was an Irish language author, linen draper, politician, and one time hedge school master. He is also known as Humphrey O'Sullivan....

, a teacher and linen draper of County Kilkenny
County Kilkenny
County Kilkenny is a county in Ireland. It is part of the South-East Region and is also located in the province of Leinster. It is named after the city of Kilkenny. The territory of the county was the core part of the ancient Irish Kingdom of Osraige which in turn was the core of the Diocese of...

 who kept a unique diary in vernacular Irish from 1827 to 1835 covering local and international events, with a wealth of information about daily life.

The Great Famine of the 1840s hastened the retreat of the Irish language. Many of its speakers died of hunger or fever, and many more emigrated. The hedge school
Hedge school
A hedge school is the name given to an educational practice in 18th and 19th century Ireland, so called due to its rural nature. It came about as local educated men began an oral tradition of teaching the community...

s of earlier decades which had helped maintain the native culture were now supplanted by a system of National Schools where only English was permitted. Literacy in Irish was restricted to a very few.

A vigorous English-speaking middle class was now the dominant cultural force; a number of its members were influenced by political or cultural nationalism, and some took an interest in the literature of the Irish language. One such was a young Protestant scholar called Samuel Ferguson
Samuel Ferguson
Sir Samuel Ferguson was an Irish poet, barrister, antiquarian, artist and public servant. Perhaps the most important Ulster-Scot poet of the 19th century, because of his interest in Irish mythology and early Irish history he can be seen as a forerunner of William Butler Yeats and the other poets...

 who studied the language privately and discovered its poetry, which he began to translate. He was preceded by James Hardiman
James Hardiman
James Hardiman , also known as Séamus Ó hArgadáin, was a librarian at Queen's College, Galway. The university library now bears his name...

, who in 1831 had published the first comprehensive attempt to collect popular poetry in Irish. These and other attempts supplied a bridge between the literatures of the two languages.

The Anglo-Irish tradition

Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift
Jonathan Swift was an Irish satirist, essayist, political pamphleteer , poet and cleric who became Dean of St...

 (1667 - 1745), a powerful and versatile satirist, was Ireland's first earliest notable writer in English. Though born in Ireland, he spent much of his life in England. Oliver Goldsmith
Oliver Goldsmith
Oliver Goldsmith was an Irish writer, poet and physician known for his novel The Vicar of Wakefield , his pastoral poem The Deserted Village , and his plays The Good-Natur'd Man and She Stoops to Conquer...

 (1730 - 1774), born in County Longford, moved to London, where he became part of the literary establishment, though his poetry reflects his youth in Ireland.

Maria Edgeworth
Maria Edgeworth
Maria Edgeworth was a prolific Anglo-Irish writer of adults' and children's literature. She was one of the first realist writers in children's literature and was a significant figure in the evolution of the novel in Europe...

 (1767 -1849) furnished a less ambiguous foundation for an Anglo-Irish literary tradition. Though not of Irish birth, she came to live there when young and closely identified with Ireland. She was a pioneer in the realist novel.

Other Irish novelists to emerge during the 19th century include John Banim
John Banim
John Banim , was an Irish novelist, short story writer, dramatist, poet and essayist, sometimes called the "Scott of Ireland." He also studied art, working as a painter of minatures and portraits, and as a drawing teacher, before dedicating himself to literature.-Early life:John Banim was born in...

, Gerald Griffin
Gerald Griffin
Gerald Griffin was an Irish novelist, poet and playwright.-Biography:He was born in Limerick, Ireland, the son of a brewer. He went to London in 1823 and became a reporter for one of the daily papers, and later turned to writing fiction...

, Charles Kickham
Charles Kickham
Charles Joseph Kickham was an Irish revolutionary, novelist, poet, journalist and one of the most prominent members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood.-Early life:...

 and William Carleton
William Carleton
William Carleton was an Irish novelist.Carleton's father was a Roman Catholic tenant farmer, who supported fourteen children on as many acres, and young Carleton passed his early life among scenes similar to those he later described in his books...

. Their works tended to reflect the views of the middle class or gentry and they wrote what came to be termed "novels of the big house". Carleton was an exception, and his Traits and Stories of the Irish Peasantry showed life on the other side of the social divide. Bram Stoker
Bram Stoker
Abraham "Bram" Stoker was an Irish novelist and short story writer, best known today for his 1897 Gothic novel Dracula...

, the author of Dracula
Dracula
Dracula is an 1897 novel by Irish author Bram Stoker.Famous for introducing the character of the vampire Count Dracula, the novel tells the story of Dracula's attempt to relocate from Transylvania to England, and the battle between Dracula and a small group of men and women led by Professor...

, was outside both traditions, as was the early work of Lord Dunsany. One of the premier ghost story writers of the nineteenth century was Sheridan Le Fanu
Sheridan Le Fanu
Joseph Thomas Sheridan Le Fanu was an Irish writer of Gothic tales and mystery novels. He was the leading ghost-story writer of the nineteenth century and was central to the development of the genre in the Victorian era....

, whose works include Uncle Silas
Uncle Silas
Uncle Silas is a Victorian Gothic mystery-thriller novel by the Irish writer J. Sheridan Le Fanu. It is notable as one of the earliest examples of the locked room mystery subgenre...

and Carmilla
Carmilla
Carmilla is a Gothic novella by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu. First published in 1872, it tells the story of a young woman's susceptibility to the attentions of a female vampire named Carmilla...

.

The novels and stories, mostly humorous, of Edith Somerville
Edith Anna Somerville
Edith Anna Œnone Somerville was an Irish novelist who habitually signed herself as "E. Œ. Somerville". She wrote in collaboration with her cousin "Martin Ross" under the pseudonym "Somerville and Ross"...

 and Violet Florence Martin
Violet Florence Martin
Violet Florence Martin was an Irish author who co-wrote a series of novels with cousin Edith Somerville under the pen name of Martin Ross in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.- Early life :...

 (who wrote together as Martin Ross), are among the most accomplished products of Anglo-Irish literature, though written exclusively from the viewpoint of the "big house". In 1894 they published The Real Charlotte.

George Moore
George Moore (novelist)
George Augustus Moore was an Irish novelist, short-story writer, poet, art critic, memoirist and dramatist. Moore came from a Roman Catholic landed family who lived at Moore Hall in Carra, County Mayo. He originally wanted to be a painter, and studied art in Paris during the 1870s...

 spent much of his early career in Paris
Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

 and was one of the first writers to use the techniques of the French
French literature
French literature is, generally speaking, literature written in the French language, particularly by citizens of France; it may also refer to literature written by people living in France who speak traditional languages of France other than French. Literature written in French language, by citizens...

 realist novelists in English.

Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s...

 (1854 - 1900), though born and raised in Ireland, spent the greater part of his life in England. Despite this, he is usually claimed to be an Irish writer. His plays are distinguished for their wit, and he was also a poet.

The growth of Irish cultural nationalism towards the end of the 19th century, culminating in the Gaelic Revival
Gaelic Revival
The Gaelic revival was the late-nineteenth-century national revival of interest in the Irish language and Irish Gaelic culture...

, had a marked influence on Irish writing in English. This can be clearly seen in the plays of J.M. Synge (1871 -1909), who spent some time in the Irish-speaking Aran Islands
Aran Islands
The Aran Islands or The Arans are a group of three islands located at the mouth of Galway Bay, on the west coast of Ireland. They constitute the barony of Aran in County Galway, Ireland...

, and in the early poetry of William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats
William Butler Yeats was an Irish poet and playwright, and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature. A pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms...

 (1865 - 1939), where Irish mythology is used in a personal and idiosyncratic way.

The Gaelic Revival

In 1899 the Gaelic League (Conradh na Gaeilge) was founded. It insisted that the identity of Ireland was intimately bound up with the Irish language, which should be modernised and used as a vehicle of contemporary culture. This found a ready response and led to the publication of thousands of books and pamphlets in Irish, providing the foundation of a new literature in the coming decades.

Patrick Pearse
Patrick Pearse
Patrick Henry Pearse was an Irish teacher, barrister, poet, writer, nationalist and political activist who was one of the leaders of the Easter Rising in 1916...

 (1879 - 1916), teacher, barrister and revolutionary, was a pioneer of modernist literature in Irish. He was followed by, among others, Pádraic Ó Conaire
Pádraic Ó Conaire
Pádraic Ó Conaire was an Irish writer and journalist whose production was primarily in the Irish language.-Life:Ó Conaire was born in Galway in 1882. His father was a publican, who owned two premises in the town...

 (1881 - 1928), an individualist with a strongly European bent. One of the finest writers to emerge in Irish at the time was Seosamh Mac Grianna
Seosamh Mac Grianna
Seosamh Mac Grianna was an Irish writer, in his early career under the pen-name Iolann Fionn. He was born into a family of poets and storytellers, which included his brothers Séamus Ó Grianna and Seán Bán Mac Grianna, in Ranafast, County Donegal, at a time of linguistic and cultural...

 (1900 -1990), writer of a powerful autobiography and accomplished novels, though his creative period was cut short by illness. His brother Séamas Ó Grianna (1889 - 1969) was more prolific.

This period also saw remarkable autobiographies from the remote Irish-speaking areas of the south-west - those of Tomás Ó Criomhthain
Tomás Ó Criomhthain
Tomás Ó Criomhthain was a native of the Irish-speaking Great Blasket Island off the coast of County Kerry in Ireland. He wrote two books, Allagar na h-Inise written over the period 1918–23 and published in 1928, and , completed in 1923 and published in 1929...

 (1858 - 1937), Peig Sayers
Peig Sayers
Peig Sayers was an Irish author and seanachaí born in Dunquin , County Kerry, Ireland. Seán Ó Súilleabháin, the former archivist for the Irish Folklore Commission, described her as "one of the greatest woman storytellers of recent times".-Biography:She spent much of her early life as a domestic...

 (1873 - 1958) and Muiris Ó Súilleabháin
Muiris Ó Súilleabháin
Muiris Ó Súilleabháin became famous for his memoir of growing up on the Great Blasket Island off the western coast of Ireland, Fiche Bliain ag Fás , published in Irish and English in 1933...

 (1904 - 1950).

Máirtín Ó Cadhain
Máirtín Ó Cadhain
Máirtín Ó Cadhain was one of the most prominent Irish language writers of the twentieth century.-Career:Born in Connemara, he became a schoolteacher but was dismissed due to his IRA membership. In the 1930s he served as an IRA recruiting officer, enlisting fellow writer Brendan Behan...

 (1906 - 1970), a language activist, is generally acknowledged as the doyen (and most difficult) of modern writers in Irish, and has been compared to James Joyce. He produced short stories, two novels and some journalism. Máirtín Ó Direáin
Máirtín Ó Direáin
Máirtín Ó Direáin born in Sruthán on Inismór in the Aran Islands was an Irish language poet.The son of a small-farmer, Máirtín Ó Direáin spoke only Irish until his mid-teens. He worked as a civil servant from 1928 until 1975...

 (1910 - 1988), Máire Mhac an tSaoi
Máire Mhac an tSaoi
-Background:Mhac an tSaoi was born as Máire MacEntee in Dublin in 1922. Her father, Seán MacEntee, a native of Belfast, was a founding member of Fianna Fáil, a long-serving TD and Tánaiste in the Dáil and a participant in the Easter Rising of 1916. Her mother, County Tipperary-born Margaret Browne...

 (b. 1922) and Seán Ó Ríordáin
Seán Ó Ríordáin
-Life:He was born in Baile Mhúirne, County Cork, the eldest of three children of Seán Ó Ríordáin of Baile Mhúirne and Mairéad Ní Loineacháin of Cúil Ealta....

 (1916- 1977) were three of the finest poets of that generation. Eoghan Ó Tuairisc
Eoghan Ó Tuairisc
Eoghan Ó Tuairisc was an Irish poet and writer.-Life:He was a native of Ballinasloe, County Galway and was educated at Garbally College. His entered St. Patrick’s Teacher Training College, Drumcondra in 1939, graduating with a Diploma in Education in 1945...

 (1919 - 1982), who wrote both in Irish and English, was noted for his readiness to experiment in both prose and verse.

Caitlín Maude
Caitlín Maude
Caitlín Maude was an Irish poet, actress and traditional singer.She was born in Casla, County Galway, and reared in the Gaelic language. Her mother was also a school teacher from Casla. Caitlín's father, John Maude, was from Cill Bhriocáin in Ros Muc. Her mother worked as a teacher on a small...

 (1941 - 1982) and Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill
Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill
Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill is an Irish poet.Born in Lancashire, England in 1952, of Irish parents, she moved to Ireland at the age of 5, and was brought up in the Dingle Gaeltacht and in Nenagh, County Tipperary. Her uncle is Monsignor Pádraig Ó Fiannachta of An Daingean, the leading authority alive on...

 (b. 1952) may be seen as representatives of a new generation of poets, conscious of tradition but modernist in outlook. The best known of that generation was possibly Michael Hartnett
Michael Hartnett
Michael Hartnett was an Irish poet who wrote in both English and Irish. He was one of the most significant voices in late 20th century Irish writing and has been called "Munster's de facto poet laureate"....

 (1941 - 1999), who wrote both in Irish and English, abandoning the latter altogether for a time.

Writing in Irish now encompasses a broad range of subjects and genres, with more attention being directed to younger readers. The traditional Irish-speaking areas (Gaeltacht
Gaeltacht
is the Irish language word meaning an Irish-speaking region. In Ireland, the Gaeltacht, or an Ghaeltacht, refers individually to any, or collectively to all, of the districts where the government recognises that the Irish language is the predominant language, that is, the vernacular spoken at home...

) are now less important as a source of authors and themes. Urban Irish speakers are in the ascendancy, and it is likely that this will determine the nature of the literature.

Modern Irish writing in English

Yeats was already prominent at the beginning of the 20th century, but his style changed under the influence of his contact with modernism
Modernism
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

. The generation of Irish poets who followed Yeats were, to simplify, divided between those who were influenced by his early Celtic style and those who followed such modernist figures as James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

 and Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett
Samuel Barclay Beckett was an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet. He wrote both in English and French. His work offers a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human nature, often coupled with black comedy and gallows humour.Beckett is widely regarded as among the most...

, both of whom wrote poetry as well as their better known fiction and drama. This period also saw the emergence of such significant figures as Patrick Kavanagh
Patrick Kavanagh
Patrick Kavanagh was an Irish poet and novelist. Regarded as one of the foremost poets of the 20th century, his best known works include the novel Tarry Flynn and the poems Raglan Road and The Great Hunger...

, Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney
Seamus Heaney is an Irish poet, writer and lecturer. He lives in Dublin. Heaney has received the Nobel Prize in Literature , the Golden Wreath of Poetry , T. S. Eliot Prize and two Whitbread prizes...

 and Brian Coffey
Brian Coffey
Brian Coffey was an Irish poet and publisher. His work was informed by his Catholicism and by his background in science and philosophy, and his connection to surrealism. For these reasons, he is seen as being closer to an intellectual European Catholic tradition than to mainstream Irish Catholic...

.

Joyce is often regarded as the father of the literary genre
Genre
Genre , Greek: genos, γένος) is the term for any category of literature or other forms of art or culture, e.g. music, and in general, any type of discourse, whether written or spoken, audial or visual, based on some set of stylistic criteria. Genres are formed by conventions that change over time...

 "stream of consciousness", best exemplified in his famous work, Ulysses
Ulysses (novel)
Ulysses is a novel by the Irish author James Joyce. It was first serialised in parts in the American journal The Little Review from March 1918 to December 1920, and then published in its entirety by Sylvia Beach on 2 February 1922, in Paris. One of the most important works of Modernist literature,...

, considered to be one of the 20th century's greatest literary achievements. It has been described as "a demonstration and summation of the entire [Modernist] movement". Joyce also wrote Finnegans Wake
Finnegans Wake
Finnegans Wake is a novel by Irish author James Joyce, significant for its experimental style and resulting reputation as one of the most difficult works of fiction in the English language. Written in Paris over a period of seventeen years, and published in 1939, two years before the author's...

, Dubliners
Dubliners
Dubliners is a collection of 15 short stories by James Joyce, first published in 1914. They were meant to be a naturalistic depiction of Irish middle class life in and around Dublin in the early years of the 20th century....

, and the semi-autobiographical
Autobiography
An autobiography is a book about the life of a person, written by that person.-Origin of the term:...

 A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man
A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man is a semi-autobiographical novel by James Joyce, first serialised in the magazine The Egoist from 1914 to 1915, and published first in book format in 1916 by B. W. Huebsch, New York. The first English edition was published by the Egoist Press in February 1917...

. Joyce's high modernist style had its influence on coming generations of Irish novelists, most notably Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett
Samuel Barclay Beckett was an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet. He wrote both in English and French. His work offers a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human nature, often coupled with black comedy and gallows humour.Beckett is widely regarded as among the most...

, Brian O'Nolan, who published as Flann O'Brien
Flann O'Brien
Brian O'Nolan was an Irish novelist, playwright and satirist regarded as a key figure in postmodern literature. Best known for novels such as At Swim-Two-Birds, The Third Policeman and An Béal Bocht and many satirical columns in The Irish Times Brian O'Nolan (5 October 1911 – 1 April 1966) was...

 and Myles na gCopaleen, and Aidan Higgins
Aidan Higgins
-Life:His upbringing in a landed Catholic family in Celbridge, County Kildare, Ireland, provided material for his first experimental novel, Langrishe, Go Down...

. O'Nolan was bilingual and his fiction clearly shows the mark of the native tradition, particularly in the imaginative quality of his storytelling and the biting edge of his satire in works such as An Béal Bocht
An Béal Bocht
An Béal Bocht is a 1941 novel in Irish by Brian O'Nolan, published under the pseudonym Myles na gCopaleen. It is widely regarded as one of the greatest Irish-language novels of the 20th century. An English translation by Patrick C...

.

The big house novel prospered into the 20th century, and Aidan Higgins' first novel Langrishe, Go Down is an experimental example of the genre. More conventional exponents include Elizabeth Bowen
Elizabeth Bowen
Elizabeth Dorothea Cole Bowen, CBE was an Irish novelist and short story writer.-Life:Elizabeth Bowen was born on 7 June 1899 at 15 Herbert Place in Dublin, Ireland and was baptized in the nearby St Stephen's Church on Upper Mount Street...

 and Molly Keane
Molly Keane
Molly Keane was an Irish novelist and playwright . She grew up at Ballyrankin in County Wexford and was educated at a boarding school in Bray, County Wicklow . She married Bobby Keane, one of a Waterford squirearchical family in 1938 and had two daughters...

 (writing as M.J. Farrell).

With the rise of the Irish Free State
Irish Free State
The Irish Free State was the state established as a Dominion on 6 December 1922 under the Anglo-Irish Treaty, signed by the British government and Irish representatives exactly twelve months beforehand...

 and the Republic of Ireland
Republic of Ireland
Ireland , described as the Republic of Ireland , is a sovereign state in Europe occupying approximately five-sixths of the island of the same name. Its capital is Dublin. Ireland, which had a population of 4.58 million in 2011, is a constitutional republic governed as a parliamentary democracy,...

, more novelists from the lower social classes began to emerge. Frequently, these authors wrote of the narrow, circumscribed lives of the lower-middle classes and small farmers. Exponents of this style range from Brinsley McNamara to John McGahern
John McGahern
John McGahern was one of the most important Irish authors of the latter half of the twentieth century. Before his death in 2006 he was hailed as "the greatest living Irish novelist" by The Observer.-Life:...

.

The Irish short story
Irish short story
The Irish Short Story has a distinctive place in the modern Irish literary tradition, many of Ireland’s best writers, both in English and Irish, having been practitioners of the genre...

 has proved a popular genre, with well-known practitioners including Frank O'Connor
Frank O'Connor
Frank O’Connor was an Irish author of over 150 works, best known for his short stories and memoirs.-Early life:...

, William Trevor
William Trevor
William Trevor, KBE is an Irish author and playwright. He is considered one of the elder statesman of the Irish literary world and widely regarded as the greatest contemporary writer of short stories in the English language....

 and Sean O'Faolain.

Theatre

Although the documented history of Irish theatre
Irish theatre
The history of Irish theatre begins with the Gaelic Irish tradition. Much of the literature in that Celtic language was destroyed by conquest, except for a few manuscripts and fragments, such as the Book of Fermoy...

 began at least as early as 1601, the earliest Irish dramatists of note were William Congreve, one of the most interesting writers of Restoration comedies
Restoration comedy
Restoration comedy refers to English comedies written and performed in the Restoration period from 1660 to 1710. After public stage performances had been banned for 18 years by the Puritan regime, the re-opening of the theatres in 1660 signalled a renaissance of English drama...

, and Oliver Goldsmith
Oliver Goldsmith
Oliver Goldsmith was an Irish writer, poet and physician known for his novel The Vicar of Wakefield , his pastoral poem The Deserted Village , and his plays The Good-Natur'd Man and She Stoops to Conquer...

 and Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Richard Brinsley Sheridan
Richard Brinsley Butler Sheridan was an Irish-born playwright and poet and long-term owner of the London Theatre Royal, Drury Lane. For thirty-two years he was also a Whig Member of the British House of Commons for Stafford , Westminster and Ilchester...

, who were two of the most successful playwrights on the London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

 stage in the 18th century.

In the 19th century, Dion Boucicault
Dion Boucicault
Dionysius Lardner Boursiquot , commonly known as Dion Boucicault, was an Irish actor and playwright famed for his melodramas. By the later part of the 19th century, Boucicault had become known on both sides of the Atlantic as one of the most successful actor-playwright-managers then in the...

 was an extremely popular writer of comedies. However, it was in the last decade of the century that the Irish theatre finally came of age with the emergence of George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw
George Bernard Shaw was an Irish playwright and a co-founder of the London School of Economics. Although his first profitable writing was music and literary criticism, in which capacity he wrote many highly articulate pieces of journalism, his main talent was for drama, and he wrote more than 60...

 and Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s...

 and the establishment in Dublin in 1899 of the Irish Literary Theatre.

This last company, later to become the Abbey Theatre
Abbey Theatre
The Abbey Theatre , also known as the National Theatre of Ireland , is a theatre located in Dublin, Ireland. The Abbey first opened its doors to the public on 27 December 1904. Despite losing its original building to a fire in 1951, it has remained active to the present day...

, performed plays by W.B. Yeats, Lady Gregory, John Millington Synge
John Millington Synge
Edmund John Millington Synge was an Irish playwright, poet, prose writer, and collector of folklore. He was a key figure in the Irish Literary Revival and was one of the cofounders of the Abbey Theatre...

, and Sean O'Casey
Seán O'Casey
Seán O'Casey was an Irish dramatist and memoirist. A committed socialist, he was the first Irish playwright of note to write about the Dublin working classes.- Early life:...

. Equally importantly, through the introduction by Yeats, via Ezra Pound
Ezra Pound
Ezra Weston Loomis Pound was an American expatriate poet and critic and a major figure in the early modernist movement in poetry...

, of elements of the Noh
Noh
, or - derived from the Sino-Japanese word for "skill" or "talent" - is a major form of classical Japanese musical drama that has been performed since the 14th century. Many characters are masked, with men playing male and female roles. Traditionally, a Noh "performance day" lasts all day and...

 theatre of Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

, a tendency to mythologise quotidian situations, and a particularly strong focus on writings in dialects of Hiberno-English, the Abbey was to create a style that held a strong fascination for future Irish dramatists.

The twentieth century saw a number of Irish playwrights come to prominence. These included Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett
Samuel Barclay Beckett was an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet. He wrote both in English and French. His work offers a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human nature, often coupled with black comedy and gallows humour.Beckett is widely regarded as among the most...

, Brendan Behan
Brendan Behan
Brendan Francis Behan was an Irish poet, short story writer, novelist, and playwright who wrote in both Irish and English. He was also an Irish republican and a volunteer in the Irish Republican Army.-Early life:...

, Denis Johnston
Denis Johnston
Denis Johnston was an Irish writer. He wrote mostly plays, but also works of literary criticism, a book-length biographical essay of Jonathan Swift, a memoir and an eccentric work of philosophy. He also worked as a war correspondent, and as both a radio and television producer for the BBC...

, Brian Friel
Brian Friel
Brian Friel is an Irish dramatist, author and director of the Field Day Theatre Company. He is considered to be the greatest living English-language dramatist, hailed by the English-speaking world as an "Irish Chekhov" and "the universally accented voice of Ireland"...

, Frank McGuinness
Frank McGuinness
Professor Frank McGuinness is an award-winning Irish playwright and poet. As well as his own works, which include Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme, he is recognised for a "strong record of adapting literary classics, having translated the plays of Racine, Sophocles, Ibsen and...

, Thomas Kilroy
Thomas Kilroy
Thomas F. Kilroy is an Irish playwright and novelist.He was born in Green Street, Callan, County Kilkenny and studied at University College, Dublin. In his early career he was play editor at the Abbey Theatre, Dublin...

, Tom Murphy
Tom Murphy (playwright)
Tom Murphy is an Irish dramatist who has worked closely with the Abbey Theatre in Dublin and with Druid Theatre, Galway. He was born in Tuam, County Galway, Ireland...

, Hugh Leonard
Hugh Leonard
Hugh Leonard was an Irish dramatist, television writer and essayist. In a career that spanned 50 years, Leonard wrote more than 18 plays, two volumes of essays and two autobiographies, one novel and numerous screenplays and teleplays, as well as writing a regular newspaper column.-Life and...

, and John B. Keane
John B. Keane
John Brendan Keane was an Irish playwright, novelist and essayist from Listowel, County Kerry.-Life and career:...

.
The Gate Theatre
Gate Theatre
The Gate Theatre, in Dublin, was founded in 1928 by Hilton Edwards and Micheál Mac Liammóir, initially using the Abbey Theatre's Peacock studio theatre space to stage important works by European and American dramatists...

, founded in 1928 by Micheál MacLiammóir
Micheál MacLiammóir
Micheál Mac Liammóir , born Alfred Willmore, was an English-born Irish actor, dramatist, impresario, writer, poet and painter. Mac Liammóir was born to a Protestant family living in the Kensal Green neighbourhood of London....

, introduced Irish audiences to many of the classics of the Irish and European stage.

Since the 1970s, a number of companies have emerged to challenge the Abbey's dominance and introduce different styles and approaches. These include Focus Theatre
Focus Theatre
The Focus Theatre in Dublin is a small but respected theatre which offers a variety of plays from new and established writers.The theatre was founded in 1967 by the late Deirdre O'Connell, and opened on 29 September with a production of Doris Lessing's Play With a Tiger.The Focus Theatre has been...

, The Children's T Company, the Project Theatre Company, Druid Theatre, Rough Magic, TEAM
TEAM
TEAM may be an acronym for:*The European Alliance of EU-critical Movements*The Electors' Action Movement, a municipal political party in Vancouver, British Columbia*The Evangelical Alliance Mission, an evangelical Christian missionary organization...

, Charabanc
Charabanc
A charabanc or "char-à-banc" is a type of horse-drawn vehicle or early motor coach, usually open-topped, common in Britain during the early part of the 20th century. It was especially popular for sight-seeing or "works outings" to the country or the seaside, organised by businesses once a year...

, and Field Day
Field Day
Field Day is an annual amateur radio exercise, widely sponsored by IARU regions and member organizations, encouraging emergency communications preparedness among amateur radio operators...

. These companies have nurtured a number of writers, actors, and directors who have since gone on to be successful in London
London
London is the capital city of :England and the :United Kingdom, the largest metropolitan area in the United Kingdom, and the largest urban zone in the European Union by most measures. Located on the River Thames, London has been a major settlement for two millennia, its history going back to its...

, Broadway
Broadway theatre
Broadway theatre, commonly called simply Broadway, refers to theatrical performances presented in one of the 40 professional theatres with 500 or more seats located in the Theatre District centered along Broadway, and in Lincoln Center, in Manhattan in New York City...

 and Hollywood.

Irish language theatre

Conventional drama did not exist in Irish before the 20th century. The Gaelic Revival stimulated the writing of plays, aided by the founding in 1928 of An Taibhdhearc
Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe
Taibhdhearc na Gaillimhe or An Taibhdhearc , abbreviated TnaG, is the national Irish language theatre of Ireland. It was founded in 1928....

, a theatre dedicated to the Irish language. The Abbey Theatre itself was reconstituted as a bilingual national theatre in the 1940s under Ernest Blythe
Ernest Blythe
Ernest Blythe was an Irish politician.Ernest Blythe was born to a Presbyterian and Unionist family near Lisburn, County Antrim in 1889, the son of a farmer, and was educated locally. At the age of fifteen he started working as a clerk in the Department of Agriculture in Dublin.Blythe joined the...

, but the Irish language element declined in importance.

Drama in Irish has since encountered grave difficulties, despite the existence of interesting playwrights such as Máiréad Ní Ghráda
Máiréad Ní Ghráda
Máiréad Ní Ghráda , was an Irish poet, playwright, and broadcaster born in Kilmaley, Co. Clare.Ní Ghráda's father James O'Grady was a farmer, local county councilor and a native speaker of Irish and it is thought it was from him Máiréad got her love for the Irish language.Ní Ghráda was jailed in...

. The Taidhbhearc has declined in importance and it is difficult to maintain professional standards in the absence of a strong and lively audience. The tradition persists, however, thanks to troupes like Aisling Ghéar

See also

  • Irish poetry
    Irish poetry
    The history of Irish poetry includes the poetries of two languages, one in Irish and the other in English. The complex interplay between these two traditions, and between both of them and other poetries in English, has produced a body of work that is both rich in variety and difficult to...

  • Irish short story
    Irish short story
    The Irish Short Story has a distinctive place in the modern Irish literary tradition, many of Ireland’s best writers, both in English and Irish, having been practitioners of the genre...

  • Irish fiction
    Irish fiction
    Although the epics of Celtic Ireland were written in prose and not verse, most people would probably consider that Irish fiction proper begins in the 18th century. However, there are aspects of Early Irish prose that appear to have had some influence on the Irish novel: the use of exaggeration for...

  • Irish theatre
    Irish theatre
    The history of Irish theatre begins with the Gaelic Irish tradition. Much of the literature in that Celtic language was destroyed by conquest, except for a few manuscripts and fragments, such as the Book of Fermoy...

  • List of Irish poets
  • Old Irish literature
  • Early Irish literature
    Early Irish literature
    -The earliest Irish authors:It is unclear when literacy first came to Ireland. The earliest Irish writings are inscriptions, mostly simple memorials, on stone in the ogham alphabet, the earliest of which date to the fourth century...


External links

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