Richard, Kearney, The Irish Mind: Exploring Intellectual Traditions (Dublin: Wolfhound 1984)

Epigraph: ‘We wish the Irish mind to develop to the utmost of which it is capable, and we have always believed that the people now inhabiting Ireland [...] made up of Gael, Dane, Norman and Saxon, has infinitely greater intellectual possibilities [...] The union of races has brought a more complex mentality. / Ireland has not only the unique Gaelic tradition, but it has given birth, if it accepts all its children, to many men who have influenced European culture and science, Berkeley, Swift, Goldsmith, Burke, Sheridan, Moore, Hamilton, Kelvin, Tyndall, Shaw, Yeats, Synge and many others of international repute.’ (AE, The Irish Statesman, 1925.)

Introduction: ‘The existence of an Irish mind has frequently been contested’; further illustrates the ‘negative’ stereotype resulting in a ‘colonial calibanisation’ of the Irish by means of quotations from Disraeli and Charles Kingsley describing the Irish as a ‘wild, reckless, indolent, uncertain and superstitious race’ who ‘hate our order, our civilisation, our enterprising industry, our pure religion’, and ‘a race of ‘white chimpanzees’. Further, illustrates the positive discrimination by quotations from Matthew Arnold.

‘The Irish mind does not reveal itself as a single, fixed, homogenous identity. [... /] Could it be that the Irish intellectual tradition(s) represent something of a counter-movement to the mainstream of hegemonic rationalism which Jacques Derrida has termed “logocentrism”? Could it be that the Irish mind, in its various expressions, often flew in the face of such logocentrism by showing that meaning is not only determined by a logic that centralises and censors but also by a logic which disseminates: a structured dispersal exploring what is other, what is irreducibly diverse. /In contradistinction to th eorthodox dualistic logic of either/.or, the Irish mind may be seen to favour a more dialectical logic of both/and: an intellectual ability to hold the traditional oppostions of classical reason together in creative confluence. [cites Newgrange and Joyce]’ (p.9.)

Quotes Heaney: ‘I am convinced that one can be faithful to the nature of the English language and at the same time to one’s own non-English origins.’ [Further, quotes Heaney on Sweeney:] ‘There is a sort of schizophrenia in him. On the one had he is always whinging for home, but on the other he is celebrating his free creative imagination.’ (p.12.)

‘hermeneutic of discontinuity’ (p.34)

Quotes Frank O’Connor: ‘I am not sure that any country can afford to discard what I have called the backward look, but we in Ireland can afford it less than any other because without it we have nothing and are nothing.’ (Backward Look, n.p. cited; here p.34).

‘Seán O’Faoláin, for one, has expressed the view that the main trouble with modern Ireland stems for the “old curse and bore”, or “revered, unforgettable indestructible, irretrievable past [...] the underground stream that keeps on vanishing and reappearing.” O’Faoláin attributes such preoccupations to the mesmerising atavisms of “myth and mystique” epitomised by what he calls the “atrocity” of nationalism. The curse and bore of the past is also evinced, he insists, in our political ineptitude and inability to govern ourselves: “All our life-ways remained for far too long based on social structures dependent on the primitive idea of the local ruler, while Europe was developing the more powerful concept of the centralised state.”. Against this intellectual self-excoriation, so typical of that post-colonial servility which repudiates its own past, I would invoke the pronouncement of Sir Samuel Ferguson that we should attend to the records of the past in order that we may liberate our minds by “living back in the land we live in”. (p.36; incls. ref. to Deane, The Question of Tradition, in Crane Bag, Vol. 3, No. 1, 1977, p.8.)

Quotes le Brocquy: ‘It would appear that this ambivalent attitude [12; ...] was especially linked to the prehistoric Celtic world, and there is further evidence that it persists to some extent today [...] I myself have learned from the canvas that emergence and immergence - twin phenomena of time - are ambivalent; that one implies the other and that the martricx in which they exist dissolves the normal sense of time, producing a characteristic stillness. (‘A Painter’s Notes on Awareness’, in The Crane Bag, vol. 1, No. 2, pp.68-69.) Further, ‘Is this the underlying ambivalence which we in Ireland tend to stress; the continued presence of the historic past, the indivisibility of birth and funeral, spanning the apparent day-consciousness/night-consciousness, like (Joyce’s) Ulysses and Finnegan’? ([Ibid]; here p.13.)

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