Declan Kiberd’s work is a major new literary history not only because of the scope of its accomplishment but also because of the carefully structured thesis that guides its examination of a number of the great masterpieces of twentieth century Irish literature. Kiberd, a lecturer at University College, Dublin, who has published previous books on major Irish writers and important trends in modern literature and culture, argues that the modernism that underlies the great contributions of George Bernard Shaw, John Millington Synge, James Joyce, and William Butler Yeats is not the European modernism of the imperialist occupation as it is a postcolonial modernism more akin to that seen in third world countries located in Africa and South America.
Kiberd is not, however, such a slavish follower of Marxist multicultural criticism that he is only concerned with how Irish literature portrays the “exotic” and the “marginalized.” Rather, he approaches the poetry of Yeats, the fiction of Joyce, and the drama of Synge from the Wildean perspective of aesthetic self-creation and the dynamic power of form and style.
Kiberd claims that if the task of the great Irish Renaissance at the beginning of the twentieth century was to shape and reshape the ancient past, the task of the current generation of writers is to translate the recent past of the Irish Renaissance into the terms of the twenty-first century. Kiberd fully intends INVENTING IRELAND to be both a ground-clearing for, and a manifesto of, that important challenge to continually invent Ireland in the new century.
Sources for Further Study
Boston Globe. April 2, 1996, p. 57.
The Chronicle of Higher Education. XLII, March 15, 1996, p. A16.
The Guardian. February 16, 1996, II, p. 21.
Library Journal. CXXI, May 15, 1996, p. 62.
London Review of Books. XVIII, April 18, 1996, p.14.
New Statesman and Society. VIII, November 24, 1995, p. 40.
The New York Times Book Review. CI, March 17, 1996, p. 6.
The Observer. January 7, 1996, p. 15.
The Times Literary Supplement. May 31, 1996, p. 32.
The Washington Post Book World. XXVI, March 17, 1996, p. 8.