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    The Case for Irish Modernism: Denis Devlin at the League of Nations and 1930s International Broadcasting

    O'Hanlon, Karl (2021) The Case for Irish Modernism: Denis Devlin at the League of Nations and 1930s International Broadcasting. Modernism/modernity, 28 (1). pp. 157-180. ISSN 1080-6601

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    Devlin was among the "youngest generation" of Irish poets, modernists such as Thomas MacGreevy and Brian Coffey, in whom a year earlier Samuel Beckett located "the nucleus of a living poetic in Ireland" in his August 1934 essay in The Bookman "Recent Irish Poetry," a blistering attack on the "antiquarians" in the line of the Irish Revival.3 On October 4, two days after Italy invaded Ethiopia, de Valera addressed the nation a day later than scheduled on Radio Athlone (known as 2RN prior to 1933), in which he conceded that all hopes for a League-sponsored resolution to the crisis were now gone. The most striking intervention in this regard is made by Edna Longley in Yeats and Modern Poetry (2013), in which the rap sheet against modernism includes the assertion that its post-hoc "hegemony" only gained currency in the 1960s Anglophone academy, while the emphasis in new modernist studies on a plurality of modernisms instead of a tidy, overarching definition provokes Longley to suggest that modernism is a term of almost meaningless incoherence that critics would be better to jettison.7 Leaving aside the fact that problems of historical, and by definition "posthoc," categorization bedevil any major cultural-aesthetic complex (Longley's preferred substitution, "modern," is an obvious example, with Symbolism and Romanticism also relatively unproblematic terms in her book), the archival traces of 1930s radio wars between latter-day revivalists and modernists challenge Longley's assertions. The "younger generation" and Irish Modernism The background to Devlin's broadcast defending Irish modernism situates it as one intervention within a noisy, variegated cultural conversation which has only belatedly received sustained scholarly attention, a fact that obscures the actual state of play of modernism in 1930s Ireland.8 Longley's skepticism regarding the historical validity of Irish modernism is not an isolated viewpoint. "12 In "Against Irish Modernism: Towards an Analysis of Experimental Irish Poetry," Francis Hutton-Williams seems to concur with Longley in describing the concept of Irish modernism as "industry-driven," a tool blunted through too-capacious application, and in any case belied by what he sees as the failure of modernism to thrive in the conservative clerisy of the Free State.13 While these, and other recent contributions to Irish modernist studies have usefully problematized the binary of modernism versus revivalism/Celticism, Beckett's "Recent Irish Poetry" is isolated as an iconic, lonely declaration of modernist tenets—however complex that declaration is ultimately found to be, or "shorthand" scholarly abuses of it lamented.14 More to the point, critical expansions of modernism share with Longley's arresting dismissal an implicit acknowledgment of modernism's original premise: its meaning, as Jennifer Wicke argued, is "inseparable from its uses and its overdeterminations.

    Item Type: Article
    Additional Information: Cite as: O'Hanlon, K. 2021, "The Case for Irish Modernism: Denis Devlin at the League of Nations and 1930s International Broadcasting", Modernism/modernity (Baltimore, Md.), vol. 28, no. 1, pp. 157-180.
    Keywords: Aesthetics; Anglophones; British & Irish literature; Consciousness; Irish literature; Literary criticism; Modernism; Poetry; Poets; Radio; Symbolism; Symbols; Transnationalism; Yeats, William Butler (1865-1939);
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Arts & Humanities > School of English, Media & Theatre Studies > English
    Item ID: 17612
    Identification Number:
    Depositing User: Karl O'Hanlon
    Date Deposited: 28 Sep 2023 10:07
    Journal or Publication Title: Modernism/modernity
    Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press
    Refereed: Yes
    Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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