Irish Modernism – A Brief History
with Prof. Lance Pettit
This lecture explores how Ireland and Irish writers, artists and intellectuals helped to define some of the most significant creative work within what is now termed modernism.
Modernism is a catch-all term referring to a diverse aesthetics and output, but typically seen to be most active across the period spanning the 1880s to the 1930s. Often linked in European terms to the key cosmopolitan cities of Paris, London and Berlin, it is also associated variously with New York, St Petersburg, Rio De Janeiro, and Copenhagen.
How, where and when were Irish writers engaged along the globalized lines of traffic in ideas, artifacts and artists that expressed all different forms of the visual arts, literature, architecture, film and music? Whilst Ireland itself was the site of a national cultural renaissance in the same period, the main dynamic of that movement was a heroic rediscovery of its native past and traditions.
But even at the time not all ‘revivalists’ thought their work was conservative, insular or ‘backward-looking’. They saw their efforts to make a decisive break with the recent colonial past as a modernist break with tradition that chose new forms to express present concerns that accompanied the challenges of a new future. Part of this break was to connect up to other international currents – in politics, art, writing, education, drama – and integrate these within Ireland, to modernize it. A major dynamic in Irish modernity and in modernist responses to its conditions was driven by different kinds of creative migrancy.
This lecture offers a brief history of Irish modernism and is intended as a “taster” for a new evening class called ‘Irish literary modernisms: the 1940s” which begins on 2 October 2019 at the ICC.