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5 September 1985
Ascendancy and Tradition in Anglo-Irish Literary History from 1789 to 1939 
by W.J. McCormack.
Oxford, 423 pp., £27.50, June 1985, 0 19 812806 1
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Across a Roaring Hill 
edited by Gerald Dawe and Edna Longley.
Blackstaff, 258 pp., £10.95, July 1985, 0 85640 334 2
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Celtic Revivals: Essays in Modern Irish Literature 1880-1980 
by Seamus Deane.
Faber, 199 pp., £15, July 1985, 0 571 13500 5
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Escape from the Anthill 
by Hubert Butler.
Lilliput, 342 pp., £12, May 1985, 0 946640 00 9
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... literary critics’ valorisation of tradition’. This phrase occurs towards the end of W.J. McCormack’s dissection of Anglo-Irishness as a literary and historical concept, Ascendancy and Tradition. ‘Valorise’, indeed, is a verb much favoured in this book, along with others like ‘energise’ and ‘traumatise’. There’s a word that ...

Green War

Patricia Craig

19 February 1987
Poetry in the Wars 
by Edna Longley.
Bloodaxe, 264 pp., £12.95, November 1986, 0 906427 74 6
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We Irish: The Selected Essays of Denis Donoghue 
Harvester, 275 pp., £25, November 1986, 0 7108 1011 3Show More
The Battle of The Books 
by W.J. McCormack.
Lilliput, 94 pp., £3.95, October 1986, 0 946640 13 0
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The Twilight of Ascendancy 
by Mark Bence-Jones.
Constable, 327 pp., £14.95, January 1987, 0 09 465490 5
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A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Girl 
edited by John Quinn.
Methuen, 144 pp., £8.95, November 1986, 0 413 14350 3
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... business. It doesn’t stop with the book titles, either: the chapter on Edna Longley in W.J. McCormack’s short and contentious study of Irish cultural debate requires us to attend to ‘the reaction from Ulster’, and sums it up thus: ‘Fighting or Writing?’ This humorously echoes the famous anti-Home Rule poster with its ...

How are you finding it here?

Patrick Sims-Williams: Celts

28 October 1999
The Atlantic Celts: Ancient People or Modern Invention? 
by Simon James.
British Museum, 160 pp., £6.99, March 1999, 0 7141 2165 7
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... Irish, Scottish, and Welsh culture into an untraditional and externally imposed category. As W.J. McCormack argues in his Ascendancy and Tradition in Anglo-Irish Literary History (1985), this is a characteristic which ‘Celticism’ shared with ‘Orientalism’. McCormack concedes that ‘There is no doubt that ...

What’s Coming

David Edgar: J.M. Synge

22 March 2001
Fool of the Family: A Life of J.M. Synge 
by W.J. McCormack.
Weidenfeld, 499 pp., £25, March 2000, 0 297 64612 5
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Interpreting Synge: Essays from the Synge Summer School 1991-2000 
edited by Nicholas Grene.
Lilliput, 220 pp., £29.95, July 2000, 1 901866 47 5
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... development of Irish writing in the 20th century, but also to the playwriting of the modern world. W.J. McCormack’s biography claims to place Synge in the context of turn of the century modernity, but he chooses a pretty perverse point of comparison. His association of Synge with Ibsen (whom Synge himself rejected as one of those ‘analysts with their ...

Ireland at Swim

Denis Donoghue

21 April 1983
The Crane Bag Book of Irish Studies, 1977-1981 
edited by M.P. Hederman and R. Kearney, with a preface by Seamus Heaney.
Blackwater Press/Colin Smythe, 930 pp., £25, October 1982, 9780905471136
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A Colder Eye: The Modern Irish Writers 
by Hugh Kenner.
Knopf, 352 pp., $16.95, April 1983, 0 394 42225 2
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... other writers think of tradition as involving continuities, though not necessarily repetitions. W.J. McCormack writes of tradition as ‘the guarantee, the demonstration of the real interaction of literature and social life’. But there is nothing in The Crane Bag quite as telling, on this theme, as the poems collected in An Duanaire: Poems of the ...

The Art of Being Found Out

Colm Tóibín: The need to be revealed

20 March 2008
... to have failed.’ Both brothers were triumphant at Parnell’s acquittal. ‘On the surface,’ W.J. McCormack has written in his essay on The Picture of Dorian Gray and Parnell’s acquittal, the two crises differ in every important respect: the one arising from the publication of a short novel, the other from a vote of confidence in a political ...

Issues of Truth and Invention

Colm Tóibín: Francis Stuart’s wartime broadcasts

4 January 2001
The Wartime Broadcasts of Francis Stuart 
edited by Brendan Barrington.
Lilliput, 192 pp., £25, September 2000, 1 901866 54 8
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... they lived in relative obscurity. His 70th birthday in 1972 was marked by a Festschrift edited by W.J. McCormack and this book set the tone for Irish writing about Stuart over the next twenty-five years. ‘Despite the outbreak of war,’ McCormack wrote, ‘Stuart decided that he should be where Europe was then ...

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