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The Revisionist Debate in Ireland

The Revisionist Debate in Ireland 180 boundary 2 / Spring 2004 historical contextualization, as historians have treated it as an internal disciplinary issue, a technical matter of historiography, properly divorced from broader political and cultural settings.1 The historians’ approach misses the point, as the challenges to this dominant revisionism have come from outside the orthodoxy of disciplinary history. In this respect, the Irish debate echoes the wider questioning that has occupied historians since the challenge of structuralism to their ontology first surfaced.2 This essay has three main sections: an initial framing of the Irish independence project and its loss of nerve; the identification of revisionism as part of this retreat and the tracing of its different manifestations; and a detailed analysis of historical writing on the Great Irish Famine to illustrate these more general points. 1. Setting the Political Stage The revisionist debate should be seen in a long-term perspective. There had been a spectacular efflorescence of cultural and political energies in the late nineteenth century—the period of the Irish Literary Revival. The generation born during or just after the Famine who came to maturity between 1880 and 1920—notably Michael Davitt,3 Michael Cusack,4 1. See Ciaran Brady, ed., Interpreting Irish History: The Debate http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png boundary 2: an international journal of literature and culture Duke University Press

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Publisher
Duke University Press
Copyright
Copyright 2004 by Duke University Press
ISSN
0190-3659
eISSN
1527-2141
DOI
10.1215/01903659-31-1-179
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

180 boundary 2 / Spring 2004 historical contextualization, as historians have treated it as an internal disciplinary issue, a technical matter of historiography, properly divorced from broader political and cultural settings.1 The historians’ approach misses the point, as the challenges to this dominant revisionism have come from outside the orthodoxy of disciplinary history. In this respect, the Irish debate echoes the wider questioning that has occupied historians since the challenge of structuralism to their ontology first surfaced.2 This essay has three main sections: an initial framing of the Irish independence project and its loss of nerve; the identification of revisionism as part of this retreat and the tracing of its different manifestations; and a detailed analysis of historical writing on the Great Irish Famine to illustrate these more general points. 1. Setting the Political Stage The revisionist debate should be seen in a long-term perspective. There had been a spectacular efflorescence of cultural and political energies in the late nineteenth century—the period of the Irish Literary Revival. The generation born during or just after the Famine who came to maturity between 1880 and 1920—notably Michael Davitt,3 Michael Cusack,4 1. See Ciaran Brady, ed., Interpreting Irish History: The Debate

Journal

boundary 2: an international journal of literature and cultureDuke University Press

Published: Mar 1, 2004

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