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The Irish Renaissance - Tasks and Activities

In the late 19th century there was a cultural awakening in Ireland called the Irish or the Celtic Renaissance. What is interesting is that this new interest in Celtic tales and legends went hand in hand with the political and revolutionary awakening that some centuries later resulted in an independet Ireland.

Comprehension and Discussion

  1. The modernists launched the slogan “Art for art’s sake”. What does that imply? In what way does James Joyce exemplify this?
  2. Why was poetry so important for the political development of Ireland? (See the last couple of lines of the article). In what way may culture be an important tool in the fight for the independence and liberty of a people?
  3. Can you mention examples of this from other countries?
  4. Do you think that poets would make good politicians? Why / why not? (See the related poem "Politics". What do you think?)

Language

  1. If you look closely at the quote from Finnegan’s Wake you will see how Joyce violates the rules of a normal language. Point out some examples and try and rewrite the paragraph into normal English.
  2. Now give your creative talent a challenge. Try and write a paragraph or two in a “modernist” language and present it to a friend. Does he/she understand it?
  3. When you think about the language of SMS and social media, what examples can you give that compare to modernist writing?

Research

  1. Find out more about Celtic culture. Key words: the Celtic harp and other instruments, ornaments and artwork, mythology.
  2. A Celtic language, Gaelic, is still spoken in Britain. Find out where and find some examples of the language. What is meant by “The Celtic Fringe”?
  3. There are many examples of contemporary artists that have embraced and revived Celtic music (for example The Chieftains, Enya and The Waterboys). Check the Internet and YouTube for examples of the Celtic legacy in contemporary music.
  4. Search the net for information about Irish resistance against British rule. Suggested key words: Sinn Fein, the IRA, John O’Leary, the penal laws, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Robert Emmett, Wolfe Tone, Michael Collins, Eamon de Valera, the Irish Civil War, Black and Tans. Make a presentation for the class.
  5. Find out why the football matches between Celtic and Glasgow Rangers (“The Old Firm”) still reflect the somewhat tense relationship that has been between Britain and Ireland.

One to Watch

The film The Wind that Shakes the Barley (Ken Loach, 2006) is a strong documentation of Irish resistance against the British Crown and the ruthless Black and Tans. In 1920 a truce was achieved between the Irish rebels and the English, but what followed was a civil war between the so-called Free Staters who were satisfied with the new status of the country, and the more militant IRA who wanted full independence. The conflict split up families who had up till then been fightning side by side, but were now pitted against one another as sworn enemies.

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Literature after 1900

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    There Will Come Soft Rains

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