Edna Longley


Life
1940- ; b. Cork; dg. T. S. Broderick, Prof. of Pure Mathematics, 1944-62, and FTCD, her mother being Scottish Presbyterian; bapt. Catholic, but brought up in ‘the Anglican compromise’ (Church of Ireland); ed. TCD, and TCD Schol., c.1960; m. Michael Longley; app. Professor of English [Poetry] at QUB; issued Edward Thomas (1973), and Selected Poems of Edward Thomas (1983), re-establishing the poet’s reputation; co-ed., with Gerald Dawe, Across a Roaring Hill: The Protestant Imagination in Modern Ireland (1985); issued Poetry in the Wars (1986); Louis MacNeice: A Study (1988);
 
issued From Cathleen to Anorexia (1990), an Attic pamphlet engaging with nationalism in Irish literary criticism; become noted as an insistent critic of ‘depredatory ideologies’ both in their political and the literary aspects; made a blistering attack on The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing at the Yeats Summer School, 1993 observing in it ‘a propensity to censorship and an obsession with colonialism’; called the belated projected fourth volume on women a ‘damage limitation exercise’; issues The Living Stream: Literature and Revisionism in Ireland (1994), chiefly a critique of nationalism in Irish writing and containing an extensive criticisms of the Field Day Company and those ‘who throw theory at Ireland hoping bits of it will stick’;
 
unseated from directorship of John Hewitt Summer School by Damian Smyth and others on the charge of supporting revisionists to the exclusion of post-colonial commentators; issued Poetry and Posterity (2001) and The Bloodaxe Book of Twentieth-century Poetry from Britain and Ireland (2001), following a fellowship at Cambridge; has edited works of James Simmons and Paul Durcan.

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Works
Criticism
  • ed., Edward Thomas, Poems and Last Poems (1973; rev. edn. 2008);
  • ed., A Language not to be Betrayed: Selected Prose of Edward Thomas (1981);
  • Poetry in the Wars (Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books 1986);
  • Louis MacNeice: A Study (1988);
  • ‘The Rising, the Somme and Irish Memory’, in Máirín Ní Donnchadha & Theo Dorgan, eds., Revising the Rising (Derry: Field Day 1991), pp.29-49;
  • The Living Stream: Literature and Revisionism in Ireland (Newcastle-Upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe 1994), 302pp. [contents];
  • From Cathleen to Anorexia: The Breakdown of Irelands [LIP Pamph.] (Attic Press 1990); rep. in Wildish Things: An Anthology of New Irish Women’s Writing, ed. Ailbhe Smyth (1989);
  • with Declan Kiberd, Multiculturalism: The View from Two Irelands intro. Mary McAleese [President of Ireland] (Cork UP 2001), 88pp.;
  • Poetry and Posterity (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe Books 2001), 350pp.;
  • ed., The Bloodaxe Book of Twentieth-century Poetry from Britain and Ireland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe 2001), 368pp. [see details].
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Articles (Selected)
  • ‘Stars and Horses, Pigs and Trees’, The Crane Bag, 3, 2 (1979), pp.474-80;
  • ‘Shit or Bust: The Importance of Keith Douglas’, in The Honest Ulsterman (Autumn 1984), pp.13-31;
  • ‘Poetry and Politics in Northern Ireland’, in The Crane Bag, 9, 1 [“Contemporary Cultural Debate”] (1985), pp.26-40; rep. in The Crane Bag Book of Irish Studies, 2, ed. Patrick Hederman & Richard Kearney (Dublin: Blackwater Press 1985) [q.pp.];
  • ‘Edna Longley in Conversation with Carol Rumens’, in Krino, 15 [‘Women, Criticism and Ireland’ Issue] (Spring 1994), pp.2-12, with photo-port.;
  • ‘Poetic Forms and Social Malformations’, in Terence Brown and Nicholas Grene, eds., Tradition and Influence in Anglo-Irish Poetry (London: Macmillan 1989), pp.153-80;
  • ‘The Aesthetic and the Territorial’ and ‘Extreme Religion of Art’, [both] in Contemporary Irish Poetry: A Collection of Critical Essays, Elmer Andrews (London: Macmillan 1996), pp.63-85, p.280-99;
  • ‘Northern Ireland: Poetry and Peace’, in Ireland: Towards New Identities?, ed. Karl-Heinz Westarp & Michael Böss (Aarhus UP 1998), pp.103-15;
  • ‘Ulster Protestants and the Question of “Culture”’, in Last Before America - Irish and American Writing: Essays in Honour of Michael Allen, ed. Fran Brearton & Eamonn Hughes (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 2001), pp.99-120.
  • ‘Letter from Belfast’ [guest column], in Times Literary Supplement (12 Dec. 2002), p.15;
  • ‘Haunted by each other’, review of Douglas Dunn, New Selected Poems 1964-2000, in Times Literary Supplement (25 April 2003), p.3;
  • ‘Irish Poetry and “Internationalism”: Variations on a Critical Theme’, in The Irish Review, 30, 1 [Nov.] (Spring-Summer 2003), pp.48-61.
  • ‘Not guilty?’ in The Dublin Review, No. 16 (Autumn 2004) [see extract].
 
Miscellaneous
  • Culture in Ireland: Diversity or Division, ed. Edna Longley [Proceedings of the Cultures of Ireland Group Conference] (QUB: Inst. of Irish Studies 1991) [see contents];
  • The Bloodaxe Book of Twentieth Century Poetry from Britain and Ireland, ed. Edna Longley (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe Books 2001), 368pp. [70 poets incl. W. B. Yeats, Thomas Hardy, Edward Thomas, Wilfred Owen, Robert Graves, T. S. Eliot, Hugh MacDiarmid, Basil Bunting, W. H. Auden, Louis MacNeice, Patrick Kavanagh, John Hewitt, Keith Douglas, Stevie Smith, Sylvia Plath, Ted Hughes, Philip Larkin, Geoffrey Hill, Douglas Dunn, Tony Harrison, Derek Mahon, Seamus Heaney, Paul Muldoon, et al.]
 

Note: Her critique of the nationalist and implicitly anti-feminist agenda of The Field Day Anthology (Vols 1 & 2), in The Living Stream: Literature and Revisionism in Ireland (Newcastle-Upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe 1994), is reprinted as a long extract in Field Day Anthology, Vol. 5 (NY UP & Cork UP: 2002), p.1637ff. [available online; accessed 21.06.2015]. A biography and bibliography are given in Vol. III, pp.679-80 & Vol. V, p.411.

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Bibliographical details
Culture in Ireland: Diversity or Division, ed. Edna Longley [Proceedings of the Cultures of Ireland Group Conference] (QUB: Inst. of Irish Studies 1991). CONTENTS: 1. Keynote addresses and discussions: Hon Chairman Niall Crowley; President Robinson; Conference Chairman Patrick MacEntee; Jennifer Johnston; Brendan Kennelly; General Discussion [incl. contribs. from Anthony Clare, Brian Walker; Robin Wilson; Desmond Fennell; Lelia Doolin; Margaret MacCurtain, Kennelly, et al.]. After Dinner Speeches, Chris Flood RD Min. of State. 2. Irish Ireland/British Ireland: Gearóid Ó Tuathaigh, ‘The Irish-Ireland Idea: Rationale and Relevance’ [pp.54-71]; Terence Brown, ‘British Ireland’; 3. Chairpersons’ Reports from Workshops: Anthony Clare; Edna Longley; Justice Niall McCarthy; Margaret MacCurtain; Gen. Discussion; Workshop Discussions; Eamonn Hughes; Eve Patten; Chris Morash Richard Haslam; 4. Religious Ireland; Thomas Kilroy, ‘Secularised Ireland; David Stevens, ‘Protestant Ireland’; Sister Helena O’Donoghue, ‘religion as a Cultural Force in a Changing Ireland’. General Discussion. Chairman, Conclusions and Suggestions.

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The Living Stream: Literature and Revisionism in Ireland (Newcastle-Upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe 1994), 302pp. CONTENTS: ‘Revising Irish Literature’ [Introduction], pp.9-68; ‘The Rising, the Somme and Irish Memory’, pp.69-85; ‘“A Barbarous Nook”: the Writer and Belfast’, pp.87-105; Progressive Bookmen: Left Wing Politics and Ulster Protestant Writers’, pp.109-29; ‘Defending Ireland’s Soul: Protestant Writers and Irish nationalism after Independence’, pp.130-49; ‘When Did You Last See your Father?’, Perceptions of the Past in Northern Irish Writing, 1965-1985, pp.150-72; ‘From Cathleen to Anorexia: The Breakdown of Irelands’, pp.173-95; ‘Poetic Forms and Social Malformations’, pp.197-226; ‘No More Poems about Painting?’, pp.227-51; ‘The Room where MacNeice Wrote “Snow”’, pp.253-70. [see citations from ‘Poetry in the Wars’ under Seamus Heaney, q.v.]

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The Bloodaxe Book of Twentieth Century Poetry from Britain and Ireland, ed. Edna Longley (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe Books 2001), 368pp.; Irish poets included are W. B. Yeats, Louis MacNeice, Austin Clarke, John Hewitt, Patrick Kavanagh, Michael Longley, John Montague, Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, Paul Durcan, Ciaran Carson, Medbh McGuckian, and Paul Muldoon among 59 poets. [Reviewed by Elizabeth Lowry, as supra.]

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Criticism
  • Interview in Honest Ulsterman, 78 (1985), pp.13-31;
  • W. J. McCormack, ‘Edna Longley and the Reaction from Ulster: Fighting or Writing?’, in The Battle of the Books: Two Decades of Irish Cultural Debate (Dublin: Lilliput 1986), pp.61-71;
  • Neil Corcoran, ‘Last Words: Michael Longley’s Elegies’, in Poetry Wales, 24, 2 (1989), pp.16-18;
  • Alan J. Peacock, ‘Prolegomena to Michael Longley’s Peace Poem’, in Éire-Ireland, 23 (1988), pp.60-74; see also remarks on Longley in Linda Leith, ‘Subverting the Sectarian Heritage: Recent Novels of Northern Ireland’, Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, 18, 1 (December 1992), pp.88-106;
  • Jacqueline Hurtley, interview Edna Longley, in Ireland in Writing: Interviews with Writers and Academics, ed. Hurtley, et al. (Amsterdam & Atlanta: Rodopi 1998) [202pp.], pp.177ff.
  • ‘Edna Longley in conversation with Carol Rumens’, in Krino, ‘Women, Criticism, and Ireland’ [Special Edition] ed. Eve Patten, (q.d.), pp.1-12.
  • Conor McCarthy, ‘Intellectual property: Edna Longley and Seamus Deane’ [Chap. 5], in Modernisation: Crisis and Culture in Ireland 1969-1992 (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2000), pp.197-228;
  • Claire Connolly, ‘Theorising Ireland’, in Irish Studies Review (Dec. 2001), pp.301-330, espec. p.307f.;
  • Elizabeth Lowry, review of Edna Longley, Poetry and Posterity (Newcastle-upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe 2001), in Times Literary Supplement, [Irish issue], 29 June 2001, p.9.

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Commentary
Mark Patrick Hederman [OSB], ‘Poetry and the Fifth Province’, in The Crane Bag, 9, 1 (1985), writes: ‘This fivefold division is as old as Ireland itself, yet there is disagreement about the identity of the fifth province … / Uisneach, the secret centre was the place where all oppositions were resolved … The constitution of such a place would require that each person discover it for himself within himself … The purpose of The Crane Bag is to promote the excavation of such unactualised spaces within the reader, which is the work of constituting the fifth province.’ (p.110.) Further, ‘Since then, this idea has caught the attention of some artists and critics, especially those connected with the Field Day Theatre Company, who have interpreted the idea in their own way.’ Takes issue with Edna Longley who disputes the concept of fifth province in ‘Inner Émigré or Artful Voyeur’ (Curtis, ed., The Art of Seamus Heaney, 1982). Hederman here summarises Longley,with quotations interspersed, as follows: ‘A group of militant nationalists disguised as disinterested literati are providing Heaney with pseudo-intellectual respectability while secretly conscripting his poetry “to bolster a sophisticated version of Nationalist ideology”. The decoy in this manoeuvre is highfalutin jargon about ontological journeys through psychic hinterlands which claim to be in possession of “discourse” which “abolishes any boundary between poetry and prose, poetry and politics”, and confers upon “poets” an absurdly inflated notion of their importance. However, “Ulster readers are better equipped than Southerners to crack the codes that emanate from part of one province” and to understand that all this talk of “a fifth province” is no more than “the persistent Irish belief that within one tribe, one nation, the poet’s organic bardic function can still be performed - without the fissuring strains of ‘Easter 1916’.” [The first of these remarks is quoted from Longley’s Crane Bag article, ‘Poetry and Politics in Northern Ireland, viz, Crane Bag, 9:1, 1985; as infra.] In fact, the gurus of gaeldom are taking Heaney [113] for a ride, either willingly or unwillingly, “plucking out the heart of the mystery” and destroying his poetic talent by “serving it up as a quasi-political mystique”.’ Further, ‘Heaney seems to have been so bedazzled by this awesome sponsorship that he tries to ape the role which the mandarins have marked out for him. In fact he is not undertaking any deep spiritual or psychic journeys. He is “an artful voyeur” rather than an “inner emigré” … In other words, Heaney’s early promise has been destroyed by the great Expectations which have been foisted upon im by a caucus of single-minded fanatics who have caused him, poetically, to “die their creature and be thankful.”’ Further, ‘Derek Mahon, on the other hand, is one who “insists on the poet serving humanity on his own terms [but] resists the contrary pressure that would make him in the image of the people.’ [… &c.]’ (p.114.)

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W. J. McCormack: ‘Edna Longley and the Reaction from Ulster: Fighting or Writing?’, in The Battle of the Books (Lilliput 1986), writes: ‘There is a distinct group of writers, a group from Samuel Beckett, Louis MacNeice, Flann O’Brien, Elizabeth Bowen and Francis Stuart, in whose very different oeuvres the whole metaphysics of identity, the self and so forth, is subject to an intensely sceptical scrutiny.’ (p.66; quoted in Anthony Roche, ‘A Reading of Autumn Journal : The Question of Louis MacNeice’s Irishness’, in Text and Context, Autumn 1988, p.86.)

Gerald Dawe, ‘Living in Our Time,’ review, in Linen Hall Review (Summer 1990), pp.42-3: ‘Longley comes out fighting in From Cathleen to Anorexia, knowing the ropes (and who made them) like the back of her hand. Ms Longley has precious few illusions about “a fictive race”. She hates the sight of such blather and is understandably impatient, to the point of intolerance, with any writer who breathes life into the bloody old beast. Ms Longley is for the finitude of society and the transcendence of art [… //…] I sometimes wonder if the occasional literary discrimination slips in the interests of establishing a canonical hit-list’ [... &c.]. (Note that the review is reprinted in How’s The Poetry Going? (1991) [as infra].)

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Gerald Dawe, How’s The Poetry Going? (Belfast: Lagan Press 1991), defending Across the Roaring Hill (1985) against W. J. McCormack’s attack in The Battle of the Books (1986): ‘Ms. Longley recreates what is there with great detail while McCormack laments a loss with caustic wit.’ Further: ‘Longley’s book Poetry and Politics in Northern Ireland will come to be seen as one of the basic texts on the cultural debate of the 1970s and 1980s. It should help poets in particular to go about their business with a steadier eye on what they are actually doing.’ Further: ‘[S]he hates the sight of such blather [e.g., fictive race] and [is] understandably impatient, to the point of intolerance, with any writer who breathes life into the bloody old beast.’ [q.p.]. See also Longley’s remarks on the collection Across the Roaring Hill: The Protestant Imagination in Modern Ireland, edited jointly with Dawe (The Living Stream, 1994, pp.179f.)

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Gerardine Meaney, ‘Sex and Nation: Women in Irish Culture and Politics’, in Irish Women’s Studies: A Reader, ed. Ailbhe Smyth (Dublin: Attic Press 1993), pp.230-44: ‘[...] Edna Longley’s denial in her LIP pamphlet (1990) that it is possible to be both feminist and republican is not only an historical absurdity. It runs the risk of making Irish feminism no more than a middle-class movement directed towards equal participation by privileged women in the status quo. For a feminism which refuses to engage with the hard realities of Ireland can be no more than that. A feminism based on exclusion will continue to be itself excluded. A feminism which participates in the translation of political into moral [236] categories which bedevils discussions of Ireland, north and south, will itself continue to fall prey to such translations.’ (pp.236-37.) [Cont.]

Gerardine Meaney, ‘Sex and Nation: Women in Irish Culture and Politics’ (1993) - cont: ‘Women are not, as Edna Longley suggests in her pamphlet, essentially more peacable, less dogmatic, uninfected by bloodthirsty political ideologies. Women have been actively involved in every possible variant of both nationalism and unionism. They too have been prejudiced and brought their children up to be prejudiced. Women have supported and carried out violent actions. They have gained and lost from their involvement. If patriarchal history has portrayed us as bystanders to the political process, it has lied. We have always been implicated, even in our own oppression.’ (p.238.) [For full text, see RICORSO Library, “Critical Classics”, via index, or direct.]

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George O’Brien, review of The Living Stream: Literature and Revisionism in Ireland, in Books Ireland, Nov. 1994), notes that the four lines by Yeats from which the title is taken - [‘enchanted to a stone/To trouble the living stream’ (“Easter 1916”) - were quoted by Oliver St. John Gogarty in relation to the Orangemen of Ulster on 12th July (I Follow St. Patrick, 1938, p.90.)

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Joseph McMinn, review of The Living Stream (1994), in Linenhall (Winter 1994): notes her criticism of The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing for its ‘hegemonic conspiracy’ (acc. Longley); finds a correspondingly indiscriminate confusion of statements and sources in her use of decontextualised phrases from Deane’s and Kiberd’s editorial remarks; considers her criticisms to presuppose ‘an undifferentiated conspiracy’ among the editors to produce in the anthology ‘a totalising text whose patriarchal and Nationalist compulsions are not easy to disentangle’ (Longley); calls it a ‘negative tirade’, and notes the irony that the putative enemy has successfully determined the agenda; regards the parasitical obsession with Field Day as ‘tedious in the extreme’; reads the whole in the context of the peace process, which superannuates it for the time being. (pp.30-31.)

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Christopher Murray, review of The Living Stream: Literature& Revisionism in Ireland (Bloodaxe 1994), in Irish Literary Supplement (Spring 1996), noting that Longley’s ‘imperfect sympathies’ declare themselves in casual references to Seamus Deane’s Bogside background, and John Montague’s ‘appalling childhood’; quotes with approbation an example of the literary criticism that redeems the shortcomings of her anti-nationalist polemic: ‘Durcan prays to God in the sight of the congregation. His incantatory voice sounds from the altar like some of Kavanagh’s revelatory parochial communions. Kennelly, within whose sensibility the spirit, world, flesh and devil still conduct their quarrels, speaks in a secular voice from the pulpit … . Yet, even if Durcan’s persona is more than of the withdrawn visionary, Kennelly’s more than of the worker-priest, they share certain assumptions about their flock and audience.’ (‘Poetics Forms’, 204-26, being a section of Kavanagh; p.218.) Further, comments that, with her poetry, is nearly all-in-all, drawn getting short shrift, and further that it is with Ulster poetry that she is primarily concerned; asks, after Montague, can revisionism merely be an endorsement of ‘the partitioned intellect’?; Is pluralism to be but conformity to establishment norms?; quotes the dichotomy she sees in Irish Studies between ‘the empirical quest for data: an interdisciplinary burden not only borne by historians’, and ‘talking about Ireland’, a tradition that grew up in the nineteenth century alongside nationalism and ‘is, indeed, politics by other means.’ (ILS, p.15.)

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Catriona Clutterbuck, ‘Gender and Representation in Irish Poetry’, in Bullán: An Irish Studies Journal (Autumn 1998), pp.43-58: cites Longley’s remark on Paul Durcan’s poem ‘The mayo Accent’: ‘[the poem] symbolises and idealises an originary speech which the state or Nation has forgotten, but poetry, women and the father’s better remember’ (The Living Stream, p.34, and comments: ‘On this evidence of this statement, poetry is linked to women in a totalising gesture traceable to Longley’s lager critical project of proving aesthetics as embodying an ideal of cultural self-sufficiency … a version of that process of dehistoricising Irishwomen for which she, along with may others, have rebuked The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing .’ (p.49.)

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Conor McCarthy, Modernisation: Crisis and Culture in Ireland 1969-1992 (Four Courts Press 2000): ‘In […] From Cathleen to Anorexia: The Breakdown of Irelands (pamph. 1990), the critic Edna Longley picked up Haughey’s phrase [‘a failed political entity’], arguing that both the Northern and Southern Irish states had “failed” as cultural units. […] In her essay, she goes on to suggest that the principle failure has been that of nationalism, which has been an oppressive state ideology in the Republic and has fostered irredentism in the Northern minority.’ (p.11.) McCarthy later quotes, ‘Irish literary criticism can’t leap from primitivism to post-modernism without an intervening period of historical, cultural and evaluative ground-clearing. We had had neither a revisionist literary criticism nor a thorough-going empiricism.’ (‘Writing, Revisionism and Grass-seed: Literary Mythologies in Ireland’, in Jean Lundy & Aodan MacPoilin, eds., Styles of Belonging: Cultural Identities of Ulster, Lagan Press 1992, p.20; here p.36.) [Cont.]

Conor McCarthy (Modernisation: Crisis and Culture in Ireland 1969-1992, 2000): ‘While this formulation is apparently unexceptional (apart from the astonishingly patronising and inaccurate term “primitivism”), it presupposes that “primitivism” is the only phenomenon to be critically analysed, and that a “revisionist literary criticism” or a “thorough-going empiricism” are the only alternatives. There is no sense of the kind of project of critical modernism that [Desmond] Bell writes of, no sense that the bourgeois “modernity” that has emerged as the Republic, unfinished as it may be in important respects, ought to be subjected to critical scrutiny. […] What Longley and [John Wilson] Foster fail to grasp are the full ramifications of the process of which they constitute the intellectual analogue. […; 36] The kind of criticism practised by Foster and Longley is afraid to address its own conditions of possibility, as to do so would be to allude to its historical contingency. That is, they wish to produce a critique of what they see as “tradition” - for example, nationalism - but they wish not to have that critique applied to themselves. Hence they wish to halt the dialectic of criticism at the point of “psychological embourgeoisement” and “evaluative ground-clearing”. (pp.36-37.) Further, ‘Edna Longley has constructed an increasingly deliberate and explicit critical project out of the “revisionary” impulse that she detects in and draws out of much contemporary Ulster poetry. Since this book is also concerned with the idea of “revisionism”, but from a different perspective from that of Longley, it has seemed suitable to pursue a critical project in a different direction. I am concerned, that is, to take issue with Edna Longley, but my argument with her is part of a wider discussion of “revisionism”.’ (p.44.)

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Barra Ó Séaghdha, reviewing John Brown, ed., In the Chair: Interviews with Poets from the North of Ireland (Salmon 2002), writes: ‘Edna Longley prefers to present herself as an old-fashioned, non-political literary critic who pens to be annoyed with (usually nationalist) cant, she is the principal intellectual force behind the revamping of Hewitt’s regionalism for modern times. Her gift for close reading and her taste for non-modernist English writing of the 20th century have been transmitted to many of her students at Queen’s and have fed into the broader literary culture of Northern Ireland.’ (‘Ask Me Another One’, in Magill, July 2002, p.20.)

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Brian Friel Obituary (Irish Times, 2 Sept. 2015): ‘The Field Day pamphlet series was launched in 1983. The three-volume Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, published in 1991, was attacked by revisionists as being nationalist and by feminists for its patriarchal outlook. Field Day subsequently sought to make amends by publishing in 2002 a further two volumes, edited by women and devoted to women’s writing. / The cultural commentator Edna Longley was not impressed by this concession to feminism. She remained critical of the “problematic ideological direction into which the whole anthologising enterprise was directed, towards a particular version of Irish history and politics”. By this time Friel was no longer a member of Field Day, having resigned in 1994.’ (Irish Times, 2 Sept. 2015 - available online.)

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Quotations
Poetry in the Wars: ‘[M]ysteries distort the rational processes which ideally prevail in social relations; while ideologies confiscate the poet’s special passport to terra incognita. Its literary streak, indeed, helps make Irish Nationalism more theology than ideology. Conor Cruise O’Brien calls “the area where literature and politics overlap” an “unhealthy intersection”; because “suffused with romanticism”, it breeds bad politics - Fascism and Nationalism. But it also breeds bad literature, particularly, bad poetry, which in a vicious circle breeds - or inbreeds - bad politics. As Yeats says, “We call certain minds creative because they are among the moulders of their nation and are not made upon its mould, and they resemble one another only in this - they have never been foreknown or fulfilled an expectation.” Ulster poets today are sometimes the victims of improper expectations. Whatever causes they may support as citizens, their imaginations cannot be asked to settle for less than full human truth. And no cause [203] in Ireland (unlike, say, opposition to Adolf Hitler) carries such an imprimatur. This does not let the poet off the hook of general or particular “responsibility” towards political events. The price of imaginative liberty is eternal vigilance.’ (Poetry in the Wars, Bloodaxe 1986, p.185; quoted in Conor McCarthy, Modernisation, Crisis and Culture in Ireland, 1969-1992, pp.203-04.)

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Cathleen to Anorexia: ‘Anorexia should, rather, personify Irish women themselves: starved by the repressed patriarchies like Unionism, Catholicism, Protestantism, Nationalism’; ‘to characterise Irish Nationalism as archetypally female both gives it mythic pedigree and exonerates it from aggressive and oppressive intent. Its patriarchal elements also disappear.’ (From Cathleen to Anorexia: The Breakdown of Irelands [pamphlet], Attic Press 1990, pp.11, 18; cited in Amanda Graham, ‘The Lovely Substance of the Mother: Food, Gender and Nation in the work of Edna O’Brien’, Irish Studies Review, 15, Summer 1996, pp.16-20. Further, Quotes: ‘Both Irish Nationalism and Ulster Unionism must accept the reality of the North as a frontier-region, a cultural corridor, a zone where Ireland and Britain permeate one another. The Republic should cease to talk so glibly about “accommodating diversity” and face up to difference and division. This would actually help the North to relax into a genuinely diverse sense of its own identity: to function, under whatever administrative format, as a shared region of these islands. At which point there will definitely be no such person as Cathleen ni Houlihan.’ (‘From Cathleen to Anorexia’; rep. in The Living Stream, 1994, p.195; quoted in part in Conor McCarthy, Modernisation, Crisis and Culture in Ireland, 1969-1992, Four Courts Press, 2000, p.206.)

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RevisingIrish Literature”’, Introduction to The Living Stream (Bloodaxe 1994): ‘[…] I questioned the Field day agenda … on two main grounds: first, that their chosen model appeared to simplify the state of literary play, to ignore the cultural negotiations at work in poetry in the North, and to foreclose on the new politics they might symbolise; secondly, that a distinctively Northern Nationalist formation was claiming wider validity than it had earned, not only with respect to the North but to the whole island.’ (The Living Stream, 1994, p.23); ‘Deane’s criticism frequently travels in a loop whereby he first seeks to disprove “such a thing as an Irish national character or an Irish fate or an Irish destiny”, but then reverts to Nationalist language: “it is indeed true that we have in this island, over a very long time, produced a literature or a form of writing which is unique to us.” (‘Canon Fodder: Literary Mythologies in Ireland’, in Jean Lundy & Aodan MacPoilin, eds., Styles of Belonging: Cultural Identities of Ulster, 1992; Longley, 1994, p.25). Further [quoting Paulin’s assertion that we have been taught to believe that art and politics are separated by ‘the thickest and most enduring of partitions’, in Faber Book of Political Verse, Intro., p.15:] ‘The argument does not turn on whether to link literature and history, literature and politics, but how .’ (Longley, 1994, p.37.) See also quotations under Seamus Deane, Commentary [supra].

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Anempiricist” may be someone who lives from hand to mouth. Or he may be someone who follows an ideal that is always developing, implicit rather than explicit.’ (Essay on MacNeice, in Poetry in the Wars, Bloodaxe 1986, p.93; quoted in Conor McCarthy, Modernisation, Crisis and Culture in Ireland, 1969-1992, 2000, p.210.)

History/criticism: ‘Whereas Irish historiography has long been led by scholars bound up with Ireland’s changing condition, homegrown criticism, though now increasing in influence, has been overwhelmed by the international fixation on Joyce and Yeats. This chronic deficit underlies the current stand-off between historians and theorists.’ (The Living Stream: Literature and Revisionism in Ireland, 1994, p.4; quoted in Conor McCarthy, Modernisation, Crisis and Culture in Ireland, 1969-1992, p.211.) [Longley appears to mean that that the criticism, rather than responding to neighbourly historians, emulates in its procedures the practice of international scholarship.]

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Belfast blues: ‘Protestant writers […] characterise the city in terms of its founding Protestantism. Catholic writers n the other hand, or people in fiction by Catholic writers, tend to regard Belfast as not their fault but their fate.’ (‘’The Write and Belfast’, in Maruice Harmon, ed., The Irish Writer and the City, NJ: Barnes & Noble 1983, p.69; quoted in Elaine Kelly, UG Diss., UU 2006.)

1916 & All That: ‘It is no apostasy to treat Pearse and Co. as historical figures rather than saints; to set the Rising in its early twentieth-century context, to demystify its transcendence [and] permanence. Equally, Ulster Protestants will need to accept that texts, and covenants can become slippery in the living stream of history.’ (The Living Stream, 1994, q.p.; quoted in Richard Mills, PhD UUC, 1995).

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The Rising, The Somme & Irish Memory’: ‘the local pathologies demand from poets the precision of a bomb-disposal team: delicate dismantling which is also a matter of life and death.’ (p.82.) ‘I think that “Irishness”, with its totalitarian tinge, ought to be abandoned rather than made more inclusive.’ (The Living Stream, 1994, p.179.)

Why revive?: reviewing Frank McGuinness’s translation of Chekhov’s Uncle Vanya (Guildhall, Derry 1995), asks why this play is chosen for a revival of the Field Day annual tour: ‘Translation of a foreign classical play into Irish idioms has been another Field Day short-cut to significance, just as Chekhov’s couple for St Petersburg and his young wife Elena, bestow a fleeting glamour on “scenes from provincial life”.’

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Irish Review : ‘The first issue of The Irish Review caused massive psychic disturbance by carrying no editorial, manifesto, slogan, or thrilling call to the barricades. [ …] There were infinite hidden agendas […] and I would advise [Dr. Tadhg Foley] not to be fooled by the apparently simple request for contributions [ …] It makes an elaborate conspiracy wherein the journal is the editorial and the editorial is the journal. Dissatisfied customers are of course rebuking a breach of Irish convention … but I would remind them that the country is still trying to bury “Racy of the soil”; that James Simmons rues the day he subtitled The Honest Ulsterman “A Handbook for a Revolution”; and that even now members of the Fifth Province memorial Association are planning a century of annual marches in Derry.’ [… &c.] (‘Regional Variations’, review article on sundry journals, in The Irish Review, 2, 1987, pp.149-52.) [See further remarks on “Fifth Province” quoted and discussed by Patrick Mark Hederman, supra.]

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Autobiography as History’, review of Reading in the Dark in Fortnight Review (Nov. 1996), [full page]; reflects on the common conflation of personal history with a narrative of Ireland in Irish autobiographers; cites phrases of this tendency, ‘radical privation’; ‘the sense of a missing feature or energy’ ‘this missing agency [for which] nothing can compensate’; ‘a utopia inverted and perverted’; ‘the local drags, in its retarding fashion, on the aspiration to transcend it’; comments that ‘despite fine passages of close observation, Deane often allow melodrama and a kind of Celtic melancholia to interbreed’; ‘this book powerfully represents the condition - and conditioning - of Catholic Derry during the years that incubated the Troubles…. Deane’s Derry world is as introverted and fatalistic as MacLaverty’s Belfast. And it is sometimes doubtful whether the author establishes a horizon beyond the narrator’s predicament - a horizon of geography or history or philosophy or expectation. Even the humour remains grim…. His “missing feature or energy” may ultimately have less to do with Derry or Ireland than with the neurosis that nourishes all creative spirits; ends by summoning comparison with fellow-pupil at St. Columbs’, Seamus Heaney, considering that in Deane ‘the local drags’ while the latter overstresses the ‘aspiration to transcend it.’ (p.34.)

Sundry remarks [of Paul Durcan:] ‘There are several desolate, one night stanzas.’ ([Q. source]., p.225.) ‘Research that historicises our own activities can help us to walk the wobbly tightrope between attachment and detachment.’ (Quoted in Gerry Smyth, Decolonisation and Criticism: The Construction of Irish Literature (London: Pluto Press 1998, p.4.)

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Not guilty?’ in The Dublin Review, No. 16 (Autumn 2004).

“In Memory of Eva Gore-Booth and Con Markiewicz” dramatizes W.B. Yeats’s darkest forebodings. The poem is both elegy and self-elegy. Its imperilled ‘great gazebo’ symbolizes not just Anglo-Irish achievement in general but the Irish Literary Revival in particular. Yeats, whose poetry encodes a running commentary on the Revival’s fortunes, speaks as the notional architect of that unappreciated edifice. To proclaim its glory and shame its detractors, he threatens a ‘conflagration’, an apocalypse. Seventy-five years on, the restoration of Lissadell House may be a more positive symbol. Indeed, the Literary Revival is enjoying a new academic vogue these days - a vogue itself worth studying.

One trend is that the Revival has become less literary. For a younger generation of scholars (to judge from the publications discussed below), the hot issues are Theosophy, the agricultural Co-operative Movement, reactions to science and technology, anthropological controversies. Perhaps, if criticism has little more to say about works by Yeats or Synge, literature may as well dissolve into a generalized ‘Revivalism’ between 1890 and 1922. To quote Nicholas Allen, author of George Russell (AE) and the New Ireland: ‘The intellectual awakening in Ireland ... took many forms, economical, political and social as well as literary ... We need ... to look at new sources of material, at paintings, journals, letters, pamphlets and posters, across new fields of enquiry, agriculture, anarchism, industry and the environment.’ But through which lenses should we ‘look’? Literature owes its special position to the fact that it raises and attracts such questions. The intellectual awakening produced intellectual conflict that has not gone away. In transmuted forms, it marks the spot where latter-day post-colonial theory meets long-term unease about the Revival’s nativeness: an encounter consummated by what Terence Brown in a recent essay calls the ‘dominant ... political and colonial paradigm in contemporary Irish Studies’. Not in historical studies, however. The paradigm emerged not only as an intellectual tool or framework but also as a kind of counter-reformation against ‘revisionist’ history. In its most inquisitorial mode, the paradigm charges the Revival’s Protestant literati with misrepresenting Catholic Ireland, with seeking to impose their own image on - or through - Irish literature, with conspiring to accumulate cultural capital in lieu of political power.

Yet, as Revival studies ramify, their conceptualization diversifies. The colonial paradigm, in its cruder forms, may be nearer its sell-by date than Brown thinks, just as he may be pushing an open door when he suggests that the c-word should be exposed to literary history, ‘biographical/psychological’ nuances, and new approaches in Victorian studies. For Brown, the Revival has become too Irish. He wants Yeats’s occult interests to be understood in post-Darwinian terms: ‘rooted ... more in his sense that materialist modernity had desacralised the world, than in a political unconscious that sought surrogates for a diminishing caste hegemony’. Here Brown proposes, if not a paradigm-shift, at least a change from ‘guilty as charged’. Similarly, Sinéad Garrigan Mattar writes in the introduction to her highly nuanced Primitivism, Science, and the Irish Revival: ‘Rather than positing, as many critical studies do, that for [Yeats, Synge and Lady Gregory] life began with Ireland, I want to show that their interest in primitive modes of life predated their individual ‘conversions’ to nationalism: that it certainly predated their reading of comparative anthropology, and that it was deeply connected to European traditions of thought - initially romantic traditions, later scientific traditions.’

These are old accusations ...

For full-text versions See RICORSO Lbrary > "Criticism > Monographs" - via index, or as attached.

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Notes
Tom Hervin, [review,] in Irish Studies Review ( Winter 1994/5), p.48, cites an obiter dicta: ‘Poetry and politics, like church and state, should be separated. And for the same reasons: mysteries distort the rational processes which ideally prevail in social relations; while ideologies confiscate the poet’s special passport to terra incognita’ (in Poetry in the Wars [sic]); also: ‘[certain poems] press beyond existing categories, to prepare new ground’ (In Living Stream ; cited idem.)

Field Day on your mind: stemming from remarks on Leslie Yodaiken’s republican and socialist anthology of 1936 she writes: ‘fifty years on, some Field Day publications might also be called Goodbye, Twilight.’ (‘Progress Bookmen, politics and Northern Protestant writers since the 1930’, in The Irish Review, 1 (1986, q.p.; further under Leslie Daiken, supra),

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