The Prose Literature of the Gaelic Revival, 1881–1921: Ideology and Innovation

by Philip O'Leary


Literary study from Penn State University Press

Presents the lively debates within the language movement known as the Gaelic revival in their full complexity, citing documents such as editorials, columns, speeches, letters, and literary works that were influential at the time but all too often have been published only in Irish or have been difficult to access.

SKU: 177 Category:


The Penn State University Press | paperback
ISBN: 978-0-271-02596-4 | 1994  | 540 pages

1995 Donald Murphy Prize for First Book in Irish Studies (American Conference for Irish Studies)

The Gaelic Revival has long fascinated scholars of political history, nationalism, literature, and theater history, yet studies of the period have neglected a significant dimension of Ireland’s evolution into nationhood: the cultural crusades mounted by those who believed in the centrality of the Irish language to the emergent Irish state.

This book attempts to remedy that deficiency. Cautiously employing the terms “nativist” and “progressive” for the turnings inward and toward the European continent manifested in different authors, this study examines the strengths and weaknesses of contrasting positions on the major issues confronting the language movement. Moving from the early collecting or retelling of folklore through the search for heroes in early Irish history to the reworking of ancient Irish literary materials by retelling it in modern vernacular Irish, O’Leary addresses the many debates and questions concerning Irish writing of the period. His study is a model for inquiries into the kind of linguistic-literary movement that arises during intense nationalism.

Philip O’Leary is Professor of English at Boston College.


“This book is a comprehensive literary history of the Irish language movement during its crucial period—the forty years from its organization to the Civil War—with full and fairly detailed accounts of the authors and works involved. There is no available synthesis that could begin to compare with it in the scope and range of the material it covers. Hence it should fill an important need to all those who are interested in Ireland and its culture.”

“This is a major contribution to Irish Studies as well as a superb case study in the problems involved in saving and promoting a vanishing language, and encouraging literary activity in that language.”

“Taken together, this book and its companion volume [Gaelic Prose in the Irish Free State, 1922–1939] constitute a magisterial survey of Irish language prose up to the beginning of WWII. . . . The volumes belong together since the careers of many of the most important writers overlap the periods of both. . . . Libraries will want both of these splendid books.”

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