Topic 56 – Historical relations between Ireland and great britain. Irish aunthors: sean o’casey and james joyce

Topic 56 – Historical relations between Ireland and great britain. Irish aunthors: sean o’casey and james joyce



1.1. Aims of the unit.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.


2.1. From ancient times to the sixteenth century.

2.2. From the seventeenth to the late nineteenth century.

2.3. The twentieth century.

2.3.1. Before 1850: the Great Famine.

2.3.2. From 1850 to 1920: the Ulster Crisis.

2.3.3. From 1920 to 1950: Norther Ireland and the IRA.


3.1. Main features of the inter-war period.

3.2. Main literary forms.

3.2.1. Poetry.

3.2.2. Drama.

3.2.3. Prose.


4.1. Sean O’Casey (1884-1964).

4.2. James Joyce (1882-1941).





1.1. Aims of the unit.

The present unit, Unit 56, aims to provide an account of the historical relations between Ireland and Great Britain. Particularly, we shall concentrate on the late Victorian period since both authors were born in the 1880s, and the first half of the twentieth century since it was the period in which both authors produced their main works. Despite the two Irish authors under study, that is, Sean O’Casey and James Joyce lived and produced their works within this period, they worked in different fields. Thus O’Casey is to be framed within drama whereas Joyce is framed within novel productions. We shall analyse how they reflected the prevailing ideologies of the day in the literature of the time which, following Speck (1998), is an account of literary activity in which social, economic, cultural and political allegiances are placed very much to the fore.

This is reflected in the organization of the unit, which is divided into three chapters which correspond to the main tenets of this unit: (1) a historical account of the relations between Ireland and Great Britain throughout history; (2) the literary background of the time, that is, the late Victorian literature, the birth of modern literature, and also the inter-War years; and finally, an analysis of (3) the two Irish authors, Casey and Joyce. Therefore, we shall present our study in six main chapters.

Chapter 2 provides an account of the historical relations between Ireland and Great Britain. Hence we shall analyse the main events (1) from ancient times to the sixteenth century since this is the period in which Ireland was left largely to herself; (2) from the seventeenth to the late nineteenth century in Great Britain, where we shall review the main events related to the Irish being suppressed due to religious affairs; and then, (3) the twentieth century and its relationship with the Irish question and the two World Wars, which shall be approached (a) before 1850 in relation to the period of the Great Famine, (b) from 1850 to 1920 regarding the Ulster Crisis, and finally, (c) from 1920 to 1950 regarding the question of Northern Ireland and the IRA.

In Chapter 3, we shall provide a literary background for the Irish literary Renaissance in the inter-war period (1918-1939) up to 1950. So, in this section we shall analyse (1) the main literary features of the period; (2) the main literary forms of the time: (a) poetry, (b) drama and (c) prose. Hence, in Chapter 4, we shall concentrate on the literary forms of drama and prose so as to provide a general account of the two Irish authors, Sean O’Casey and James Joyce, in terms of their life, works, main themes and style. Therefore, we shall present (1) Sean O’Casey

(1884-1964) as a dramatist and (2) James Joyce (1882- 1941) as a novelist of the inter-War years.

Chapter 5 will be devoted to the main educational implications in language teaching regarding the introduction of this issue in the classroom setting. Chapter 6 will offer a conclusion to broadly overview our present study, and Chapter 7 will include all the bibliographical references used to develop this issue.

1.2. Notes on bibliography.

An influential introduction to the historical background of the historical relations between Ireland and Great Britain in the inter-War years is based on Thoorens, Panorama de las literaturas Daimon: Inglaterra y América del Norte. Gran Bretaña y Estados Unidos de América (1969); and Palmer, Historia Contemporánea (1980). The literary background includes the works of Rogers, The Oxford Illustrated History of English Literature (1987); Albert, A History of English Literature (1990); Magnusson & Goring, Cambridge Biographical Dictionary (1990); Sanders, The Short Oxford History of English Literature (1996); and Speck, Literature and Society in Eighteenth -Century England: Ideology Politics and Culture (1998).

The background for educational implications is based on the theory of communicative competence and communicative approaches to language teaching are provided by the most complete record of current publications within the educational framework is provided by the guidelines in B.O.E. (2004) for both E.S.O. and Bachillerato; the Council of Europe, Modern Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. A Common European Framework of reference (1998); and van Ek and Trim, Vantage (2001).


Chapter 2 provides an account of the historical relations between Ireland and Great Britain throughout the timeline so as to frame, in next chapter, the literary background of Casey and Joyce within an appropriate context. In doing so, it is convenient to focus on the main events related to the late Victorian period and the first half of the twentieth century, approximately from 1880 to 1950. Thus, under Victoria, a Britain transformed by the Industrial Revolution became the world’s leading imperial power whereas under the following reigns Britain saw the dismantling of its empire and, therefore, its decadence together with a period of European conflicts and wars, including the Irish question and the two World Wars.

This period, bewildered by growing wealth and power at the beginning of the century because of the pace of industrial and social change as well as scientific discovery, saw a growth in literature, especially in fiction. Yet, after the middle of the reign, confidence began to fade because of a series of conflicts, wars and colonial problems, and in the last two decades a different atmosphere was created. As a result, literature developed various specialist forms, such as aestheticism, professional entertainment, historical novel, and a disenchanted social concern, which gave way to the revival of drama.

Yet, we shall examine the development of the relations between Ireland and Great Britain since ancient times up to approximately 1950 as regards the main turning points occurred in the mentioned periods. Hence we shall analyse the main events (1) from ancient times to the sixteenth century since this is the period in which Ireland was left largely to herself; (2) from the seventeenth to the late nineteenth century in Great Britain, where we shall review the main events related to the Irish being suppressed due to relig ious affairs; and then, (3) the twentieth century and its relationship with the Irish question and the two World Wars, which shall be approached (a) before 1850 in relation to the period of the Great Famine, (b) from 1850 to 1920 regarding the Ulster Crisis, and finally, (c) from 1920 1920 to 1950 regarding the question of Northern Ireland and the IRA.

2.1. From ancient times to the sixteenth century.

In prehistoric times, approximately between c.7000 and 6000 BC, Ireland was connected to Great Britain by means of land bridges which were soon to be swept away by rising seas during the last Ice Age. Later on, in the Mesolithic period, although the ice cap had disappeared, the two islands were still connected by the subsoil beneath which was permanently frozen. In the Neolithic and Bronze ages, between c.7000 BC and c.750 BC, Ireland was sparsely inhabited by hunter-gatherers who developed farming techniques. Therefore, the population grew and immigrants arrived from Britain and the European mainland.

These immigrants are known as the Celts, who came from Britain and the European mainland over the centuries during the Iron Age (c.750 BC-AD 399) and, who, by this time dominated the northern half of Europe (Spain, the south-west Portugal, and far as Anatolia). Later on, the Roman expansion encouraged new invaders to go into Britain and on to Ireland and, during the last centuries of the pre-Christian era there was a steady inflow of people with Celtic cultures who, with the help of iron weapons and horses, subjugated the island. Yet, Roman conquests in

Gaul and Britain encouraged the migration of the Gaels to Ireland but, as the Roman Empire began to fall apart, they ravaged western Britain at the same time as Germanic peoples flooded in from the east.

According to the Romans, the isle of Ireland was referred to as the ‘Sacred Isle’ which was two days’ voyage from Brittany, but it was Pytheas, a Greek voyager, who gave Ireland its correct geographical position with respect to Britain. Moreover, a second-century map identifies such names as Logia (the Lagan, or Belfast Lough), Isamnion (Navan Fort) and Volunti (the Ulaidh, the people of Ulster). Yet, it is not after Julius Caesar invaded Britain in 55 BC that Roman knowledge of Ireland became much more accurate, as revealed in the writings of Pomponius Mela and Tacitus at the beginning of the Christian era.

Also, the desire of independence is clear in the lists of High Kings who ruled all of Ireland from very early times. In the fifth century there were dozens of kingdom which, though no larger than a barony, were able to dominate and exact tribute from lesser ones. The most important kingdoms were Muma, Connacht, Laigin, Midhe and Uladh, with others emerging including Osraige and Brega. Uladh (roughly equivalent to Ulster) was in a rapid state of flux as the Connachta dynasties were making inroads. Yet, during the fourth and fifth century, Ireland was still to be heavily influenced by the Roman Empire due to the fostering of British Christianity.

Between c.400 and 799 Christianity was fostered in Ireland, though it was in retreat over the European mainland. Actually, a late Celtic Christian civilisation flourished and Irish monks, pilgrims, explorers and scholars made a significant contribution to the culture of neighbouring lands. By the early fifth century, Christianity seems to have penetrated parts of the south as a result of regular trading contacts with the Roman Empire and the work of missionaires.

Thus, the only missionary to have left a written record is known as Patrick, who later on became an emblematic Irish figure. Seized by Irish raiders early in the fifth century, he was taken as a slave for six years and, in his extreme loneliness, he renewed his faith in Christianity. When he escaped, he got back to his home in Britain, was trained as a priest and persuaded the British Church to send him back as Bishop to Ireland. So we may say that by that time Ireland and Britain were connected by religion.

Later on, from the ninth to the twelfth century, the continuous Viking raids (AD c.800 and

1169), directed from Britain, brought an abrupt halt to major Irish influence overseas and led to the abandonment of great monasteries. However, the Irish learned much from Vikings with

respect to two main aspects: first, the fact that during this time the country came close to political unity and, secondly, the foundation of the island’s first towns, three of which (Dublin, Waterford and Limerick) were cities by the time the Normans arrived.

Under the Norman rule between the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, the Norman invasion of Ireland (AD 1169–1315) was very different from that of England a century before in three aspects: first, that Ireland was not overwhelmed in just a few years as Britain was; that the newcomers conquered the former Viking settlements and seized fertile lowlands; and finally, that Normans did not conquer all the territory and left the mountainous regions and Ulster west of the River Bann to the native Irish.

Already in the fourteenth century, the political history of England is characterized by a period of violence and revolution, the fact that England’s sovereignty is chiefly nominal whereas Ireland is left to herself, and the development of two different Irish societies as religion is concerned. Actually, Richard II (1377-1399) was the first reigning monarch of England to visit Ireland since King John (his uncle, who ruled England when Richard was still a child), and the only one to come to the island more than once until Queen Victoria did so because of the rebellions. He campaigned in Ireland and brought the Leinster Irish rebellion (1394) to an end. After it, the island was controlled by British governors (1395) who ruled under a period of conflicts. In 1399

Richard came to Ireland again so as to solve the problems, but while he was in Ireland, his cousin Henry Bolingbroke rose in revolt. Richard returned to England to lose his kingdom and his head and was to be followed by Richard III.

In the fifteenth century, Henry Tudor defeated and killed Richard III at the Battle of Bosworth. A new phase began in Irish history, as from this time English royal power began to recover. Henry VII showed no desire to conquer Ireland but he provided stable government and insisted on the loyalty of his subjects. He employed the most powerful colonial family in the country, the FitzGeralds of Kildare, to act on his behalf. Actually, the chief governor (Garret Mór FitzGerald) extended royal authority beyond the Pale and, after invading the Ulster (1498), Henry VIII retained the services of him and his son and crushed the rebellion.

From then on, and unlike his father, Henry VIII was determined to make himself the ruler of all of Ireland and therefore, named a lord deputy to rule over Ireland who stayed there as a chief governor. Almost until the end of the sixteenth century the Tudor monarchy vacillated between conciliation and conquest. Sir Anthony St Leger, the lord deputy by then, believed that the Gaelic lords and their people, if treated with respect, would become loyal to the Crown and abide by English law.

Sir Anthony St Leger persuaded Henry VIII to change his title from Lord of Ireland to King of Ireland and the Irish parliament gave its approval in 1541. The act was not only translated into Irish but developed a chain of events by means of which the lords would drop their traditional Gaelic titles and give up their lands, receiving them back from the king with English titles. Moreover, Henry’s break with Rome and the confiscation of monastic lands caused less dislocation than might have been expected. As a result, England became a Protestant kingdom in the reign of Edward VI, but the Reformation made little headway in Ireland, even in the Pale.

The mid sixteenth century witnessed the beginning of a new period in the history of the British Isles which was characterized by the emergence and expansion of the great British Empire and the figure of Elizabeth coming to the throne in 1558. Under her rule, there was no policy formulated for the government of Ireland, although by the end of the century the complete conquest of Ireland became a strategic necessity for Elizabeth I during a time when Spain threatened to use the island as a means of challenging England from the west. The Elizabethan conquest (1558–1603) brought about the final subjugation of Ulster, which was a heavy burden on royal resources.

2.2. From the seventeenth to the late nineteenth century.

In the seventeenth century, with respect to Ireland, the government of James I (1625–1641) was really interested in the success of the Plantation of Ulster, not only as a way of paying debts acquired by Elizabeth during her Irish Wars, but also to spread Protestantism and to secure the province for the Crown. Moreover, events such as the Reformation and fear of Ireland’s Catholic majority made Charles I be more concerned to assert his royal prerogatives and to ensure allegiance to the Established church, since most Ireland was Protestant.

In 1633 Thomas Wentworth was sent to Ireland as Lord Deputy to raise funds for the royal coffers and to enforce High Church conformity on the Protestants. As a result, Irish natives, that is, Old English (Catholic descendants of Norman conquerors) and planters alike paid heavy fines to retain their estates. Since the British government failed to evict the Irish from their lands the London Companies were hounded until the Court of Star Chamber condemned Irish landers to pay a huge fine.

Conflicts and rebellions continued in the Ulster Plantation since it proved difficult for the British government to find enough British to colonise Ireland, and the native Irish outnumbered the planters everywhere, resentful at their losses and reduction in status. Meanwhile, Reformation amongst the Catholic Irish was being strengthened by friars sent over from Spain and Flanders. Skirmishing continued in Ulster for some time after Cromwell’s expedition until Bishop Heber MacMahon was elected to lead Catholic resistance in November 1649. Then the Protestants of Ulster realised that it was in their best interest to support them.

Actually, Protestants were absolved if they paid fines, but almost all Catholic landowners disappeared in Ulster, many obtaining smaller estates as compensation. By the end of the century, the accession of a Catholic king, James II (1685-1689), warned the population not only through the length and breadth of England but also through the Protestant settlement in Ireland. The hopes of Catholic gentry, who had lost so much in Cromwell’s land settlement, were raised by the king’s actions, but soon the country was thrown into conflict again, and for a time the fate of Britain and much of Europe seemed to depend on the situation in Ulster.

Yet, James II’s policy brought so many problems to the country again, such as the conflict with

Whigs and Tories alike, that the English nobility asked William of Orange for help. Then on 5

November 1688 an imposing Dutch army disembarked at Brixham and James fled to France. In

1689 William and his wife Mary, James’s eldest daughter, were declared joint sovereigns of England, Scotland and Ireland. Soon after, James entered Dublin and, under the leadership of Lord Mount, resistance to the forces of King James was organised.

An assault was made on the Jacobite garrison of Carrickfergus, but it was a disaster. Then the Jacobites swept northwards and overwhelmed the Protestants in 1689. After this failure, all of eastern Ulster occupied Belfast without meeting resistance there. For a brief moment in history which coincided with the turn of the century, Ireland became a conflict point of Europe, and the victories of William of Orange were a severe blow to the ambitions of Louis XIV to dominate western Europe. So William’s victory ensured a period of peace in Ireland for the ensuing century, in which the island prospered and the population grew.

The eighteenth century coincided with the emergence of the Industrial Revolution in England and all over Europe and the expansion of the British empire. With respect to Ireland, in the late eighteenth century the cotton industry was established there with the help of protective duties, and for a time there were successful large enterprises in the counties of Cork, Kildare and Dublin. In the same period the first mills began in Belfast in the 1770s as well as in the final years of the Napoleonic Wars this city became the centre of the power production of yarn. By

the end of the century the population rose considerably, but generally productivity had outstripped population growth.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century things became worse since agricultural prices fell steadily, the Irish countryside destitution increased and, on top of that, the domestic industries in wool and linen declined in the face of competition from those of England, thus Manchester, Leeds, Bradford and Belfast. Hence Dublin also failed to industrialise, though it was once the second largest city in the British Empire, and could not therefore absorb enough of the poor from the countryside. By then, Belfast had become the fastest-growing urban centre in the United Kingdom but it too was incapable of taking in enough of the destitute from central and southern Ulster, then the most densely populated rural area in the British Isles. By the first half of the century (1845) it was estimated that one half of the population was dependent on the potato for survival.

2.3. The twentieth century.

The early twentieth century and the Irish question are to be politically related to the accession of Victoria’s son, Edward VII (1841-1910) to the crown, and his reign was known as the Edwardian Age (1901-1910) or the age of the House of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha. Edward was the only British monarch who reigned for nine years at the beginning of the modern age in the early years of the 20th century. He was replaced on his death by King George V (1865-1936), who replaced the German-sounding title with that of Windsor during the First World War. The Windsor title remained in the family under the figure of Edward VIII, Duke of Windsor (1894-

1972). As we know the family name is still present in the current Royal Family.

In this section, we shall approach the Irish question by reviewing the main events occurred (1) before 1850 as the great famine, (2) from 1850 to 1920 with the Ulster crisis; and (3) from 1920 to 1950 approximately, concerning the question of Norther Ireland and the IRA.

2.3.1. Before 1850: the great famine.

Before 1850, the Industrial Revolution also affected Ireland since in the late eighteenth century, and for a time there were successful large cotton enterprises, the establishment of the first mills in the 1770s, and in the final years of the Napoleonic Wars turned Belfast into the centre of the power production of yarn. Hence, the industrial revolution made spectacular progress in the

eastern Ulster in the nineteenth century due to the capital, business skills and technical expertise acquired by drapers and cotton manufacturers earlier.

Yet, in social and economic terms, the population in the south rose from about two million at the beginning of the eighteenth century to over five million by the end of it. After 1815 since agricultural prices fell steadily, destitution in the Irish countryside increased, making the domestic industries in wool and linen decline in the face of competition from Manchester, Leeds, Bradford and Belfast. Most families had to live on potatoes for over a year and the new land system made large families rent their possessions to survive. Therefore, Dublin, once the second largest city in the British Empire, failed to industrialise and could not therefore absorb enough of the poor from the countryside.

On the contrary, Belfast became the fastest-growing urban centre in the United Kingdom but it was unable of taking in enough population from central and southern Ulster, then the most densely populated rural area in the British Isles. However, by 1845 a microscopic fungus affected the potato crops and caused a wave of famine, sweeping most of the island. In addition, by the end of 1846, the country was hit by snow storms, and thousands of people died of starvation.

The Tory government acted quickly and, in the hope of making bread cheaper; advanced loans to grand juries to give employment to the destitute on harbours, roads and bridges and purchased maize in America to be sold at cost-price in Ireland. Yet, the Whig party did not agree with this action and a Whig admistration was established instead. Eventually, it is estimated that about a million people died during the famine and that another million emigrated, the vast majority to Britain and North America. The government declared in 1848 that the famine was over, but it continued to rage in 1849 and to a lesser extent until 1852.

2.3.2. From 1850 to 1920: the Ulster Crisis.

From 1850 to 1920, Irish nationalism spread outwards and downwards and, as a result, the majority of population demanded some form of self- government. The Protestants, a majority in the north-east, viewed this development with alarm, and when Westminster agreed to a form of independence, the Protestants insisted on remaining in the United Kingdom. When the census revealed the effects of famine in 1851 and most emigrants wanted to leave the country, some landlords charged money for assisted passages as a rapid way of reducing poor rates and

clearing scrapholders from their estates. As a result, between 1849 and 1854 nearly 50,000

families were permanently dispossessed in the post-Famine clearances.

Soon some concerted action against landlord power began, but amongst Irish substantial tenants. Actually, the Ulster Tenant Right Association was launched in 1847 and linked up with tenant associations in the south in 1850 to form ‘The League of the North and the South’. This was a group of MPs who supported their cause for a time at Westminster but nothing came of it, partly because two MPs accepted office in Lord Aberdeen’s government in 1852. Hence, James Stephens, a veteran of Young Ireland, found a revolutionary organisation in Dublin in 1858 which was dedicated to the establishment of an Irish republic by force of arms.

The movement in Ireland, now officially called the Irish Republican Brotherhood but better known as the Fenians, spread rapidly amongst labourers, shopkeepers and others hard hit by the successive harvest failures of the early 1860s. When the American Civil War ended in the summer of 1865 a quarter of a million dollars was raised to finance the long-planned Fenian rising in Ireland. However, arrangements for insurrection were disrupted by fatal indecision, internal disputes, informers, arrests and the petulance of Stephens. On the night of 4 March

1867 several thousand Fenians turned out, but they were dispersed by volleys fired by the Irish

Constabulary, renamed in gratitude by Queen Victoria as the Royal Irish Constabulary.

The pressure on the land and living standards rose considerably in the 1850s, 1860s and early

1870s due to the effects of the earlier Great Famine and steady emigration. Rents failed to keep pace with farm profits and evidence of the new modest prosperity was to be seen in the number of new Catholic churches erected in these years. In addition, the extermination of the Plains Indians and the unprecedented production of cheap meat and corn in North America, produced a crisis on the Irish land. The reduction in prices was fast and disastrous for Irish tenant farmers, who formed the Land League in the 1879.

Refusing to work for offending landlords, farmers demonstrated their united power in Mayo against Captain Boycott in 1880. The Prime Minister, W E Gladstone, drafted a Land Act in

1881 which gave tenants new rights and set up courts to control (and generally reduce) rents.

The Land League failed however in its aim to have the landlords removed altogether. Yet, Irish nationalism increased despite the efforts of the United Kingdom, such as the disestablishment of the Church of Ireland in 1869, the increasing of rights for tenant farmers by the Home Rule movement in 1870, or the introduction of the secret ballot in 1872.

This solution divided Ulster politics and as a result, protestants opposed to Home Rule. Then at the end of 1885, Gladstone announced that he supported Home Rule and that he would bring in

a Bill to establish a parliament in Dublin with limited powers. In a packed Commons, Gladstone introduced his Bill with an epic speech on 8th April 1886. Desertions from his own side, however, ensured defeat of the measure in June. Hence in the nineteenth century Belfast was the most violent corner of Ireland and lots of people were killed.

The very success of first the cotton industry and then of linen manufacture, engineering and shipbuilding drew in people from the countryside, most of them from mid-Ulster where sectarian tensions were severe. Immigrants brought with them their memories of past wrongs, their fears and their resentments. They chose where they lived with care: the main Protestant districts were Sandy Row, the Shankill and Ballymacarrett; the Catholic enclaves were smaller and more scattered, including the Markets, Short Strand, the Pound Loney and Ardoyne.

Invisible frontie rs tween these ghettos were constantly shifting due to the rapid growth of Belfast, and it was along these frontiers that intense rioting occurred. Actually, the worst event took place in 1886 when the news of the Home Rule Bill’s defeat came through and ancient rivalries were then mingled with opposing political aspirations in riots. Catholic labourers were murdered while Protestants lit tar barrels in celebration and Catholics set their chimneys on fire in protest.

By 1888 Belfast was the largest city in Ireland because of its linen industry. The reason was that by the time of the American Civil War, a cotton famine was created in Manchester as the Union troops marched through plantations, and the nearest available substitute was linen. The problems of weaving linen by power loom had been overcome just before the war when specialist engineering firms emerged to make linen machinery.

Gladstone made a second attempt to give Ireland Home Rule in 1893. This time the Bill passed through the Commons but was thrown out of the Lords. There might have been a stronger reaction in Ireland but for a fatal division in the Irish Parliamentary Party. Liberal Unionists led by Joseph Chamberlain joined with the Conservatives to create the Unionist Party and during a long period in office the Unionists made it plain that there would be no devolution for Ireland but at the same time indicated a desire to eliminate the Home Rule.

The government’s greatest achievement was to take the land issue out of politics. In 1902 the Irish Chief Secretary, George Wyndham, accepted recommendations from a committee of landlords, nationalists and unionists that the landlords be bought out. In 1903 Westminster passed Wyndham’s Land Bill, which encouraged landlords to sell entire estates, the money being advanced to tenants by the treasury to be repaid. The act was an immediate success, though it took further legislation in 1909 to compel landlords to sell.

When there was a hint in 1905 that the government would consider a form of Devolution and Unionists in Ulster formed the Ulster Unionist Council. The Liberals returned to power in 1906 but with such a large majority that they had no need to appease the Nationalists by introducing Home Rule. Deadlock between the Lords and Commons however forced two elections in 1910, with the result that the Liberals needed the support of the Irish Parliamentary Party led by John Redmond to stay in office. In 1911 the Parliament Act ended the Lords’ veto and restricted their delaying power to three parliamentary sessions. A third Home Rule Bill was introduced in 1912 and in January 1913 the Ulster Volunteer Force was set up, consisting of 100,000 men who had signed the Covenant. Andrew Bonar Law, leader of the Unionist opposition at Westminster, pledged his support. When Nationalists formed the Irish Volunteers to support Home Rule in November 1913, it looked as if Ireland was on the brink of civil war1.

An umbrella separatist political party was created in 1917. Originally, it was formed in 1905 by Arthur Griffith, and was called Sinn Fein, which means ‘ourselves’. After a number of spectacular by-election victories in 1917 and 1918, the party was ready to supplant the Irish Parliamentary Party. Yet, in the general election of December 1918 the Nationalists were annihilated, and Sinn Fein was considered then the most representative organisation of the Irish people in Ireland. The Ulster Unionist Council had already agreed that, instead of resisting Home Rule for the whole island, they would insist on the exclusion of the six most Protestant counties in the north-east. Yet, Sinn Fein MPs refused to take their seats at Westminster and instead met in Dublin, claiming to be the government of Ireland (naming their assembly Dáil Éireann).

The first incident which would led to the War of Independence traces back to the same day as the Dáil was met in January 1919, when some volunteers attacked unarmed policemen at Soloheadbeg in county Tipperary. By 1920 the government had suppressed the Dáil and flying columns of Volunteers, calling themselves the Irish Republican Army, conducted an effective guerrilla warfare in the countryside. Then, a parliamentary committee, chaired by the former Ulster Unionist leader Walter Long, prepared a Bill which became law as the Government of Ireland Act in December 1920. This Act divided Ireland into Southern Ireland with a devolved parliament in Dublin, and Northern Ireland with a devolved parliament in Belfast.

clip_image001Both parts of Ireland were to send some members to sit at Westminster. Sinn Fein rejected the scheme out of hand and continued to support the IRA in its military campaign for a united Irish

1 The demand for Irish farm production and for Belfast’s linen and engineering products ensured full employment and new standards of prosperity. Yet, militant republicans believed that Ireland took

advantage of their situation and prepared a rebellion (The Civil War) which had to be postponed by a

greater conflict on the European mainland, the First World War (1914-1918) .

republic. Eventually, the Unionists accepted the Act: the six counties of Northern Ireland comprised the largest area that they could control without fear that nationalists would gain a majority; and a home rule assembly in Belfast, they believed, would give them some protection if a future Westminster government sought to reunite the island.

2.3.3. From 1920 to 1950: Norther Ireland and the IRA.

In the spring of 1921 and under the Government of Ireland Act, Northern Ireland came into being. Both Nationalist and Sinn Fein MPs refused to attend but George V’s appeal was heard: the IRA, now facing the regular British Army operating across country had suffered a number of serious reverses; and Lloyd George, confronted with many other problems at home and abroad was eager to make agreement.

The IRA asked for an agreement in July 1921 and, after protracted negotiations at Downing Street, a treaty was signed with the British government on 6th December 1921. The 26 counties would become a Dominion called the Irish Free State. Then a special Constabulary was established between the years 1920 and 1921 to counter the threat of the IRA. The new force was to be divided into three categories; A Specials, were to be full-time and paid as regular policemen; B Specials, by far the largest section, to be part-time, uniformed and unpaid; and C Specials, an unpaid reserve force to be called out only in an extreme emergency. Also, civil servants were invited to apply but no determined effort was made to get Catholics to apply.

In the local government elections of 1920, the Unionists lost control of Londonderry Corporation and a majority of councillors pledged themselves to the Irish Republic proclaimed by Dáil Éireann. Tensions ran high in the city and in May 1920 fierce battles raged in the streets between the UVF and the IRA. Moreover, in Belfast, after a meeting of ‘Protestant and Unionist’ workers on 21 July, Catholics were driven out of the shipyards and in the ensuing weeks out of many other places of employment in the city. Ferocious conflict followed and outnumbered Catholics were generally the losers in this intercommunal warfare. In just one week there seemed to be no prospect of an end to the conflict as the War of Independence edged into Ulster.

clip_image002Other events followed such as riots, campaigns and conflicts between the police and IRA, who defended Catholic ghettos in Belfast and Derry; the Civil War between 1922 and 1923; the economic crisis between 1929 and 1932, caused by the First World War, which had brought about traumatic changes in world trading conditions: the Northern Ireland’s helpless effort to sell goods abroad; the Wall Street Crash of October 1929, which affected Belfast since it

depended on export industries and was hard hit by the contraction of world trade; the reduction of employees due to the unemployment of insured workforce; an attempt for a Protestant Parliament where Catholics made up around one third of the inhabitants of Northern Ireland, and their representatives were certain always to be in opposition.

Also, the 1932 riots, a rare occasion when Protestants and Catholics campaigned together, went on strike and organised protest marches to demand improved assistance; and the Sectarian conflict between 1932 and 1935, which brought together in solidarity the working-class of Catholics and Protestants. In addition, there was a period of inaction between 1939 and 1940, where cabinet meetings were infrequent and brief, and the average age of ministers was high in the eve of the war. Finally, the period between 1939 and 1967 can be named as one of war and peace. The Second World War underlined the experiences of the two parts of Ireland, which were sharply different, and as a result, the south remained neutral and free from attack, while the north suffered severely during the 1941 Blitz. Attempts by nationalists to get rid of partition aroused little sympathy in a world made anxious by the Cold War. Meanwhile welfare reforms greatly improved the quality of life.


In Chapter 3, we shall provide a literary background for the Irish literary Renaissance in the inter-war period (1918-1939), and even further (up to 1950). The situation described in the years before the First World War, which saw serious labour troubles, many of them connected with the growth of Trades Unionism, Home Rule for Ireland, Free Trade or Protection, Votes for Women, the decline of agriculture and the growing urbanization of the country were major problems of the day. We must take into account that after the Boer War (1899-1902) the aloofness which Britain had so long and prosperously maintained from European conflicts was abandoned in face of growing German strength, and national rivalries finally came to a head in the appalling struggle of 1914-1918.

Similarly to the literary features of the late Victorian period, the literature of the age (up to

1920) saw a spread of education since “not only was there a larger market than ever before for the “classics” and for all types of fiction, but there arose an entirely new demand for works in “educational” fields – science, history and travel. As a profession and as a business, literature offered better financial prospects (Albert, 1990:433)”.

Also, the spread of literacy was accompanied by an enormous output of books and “the awakening of the national conscience to the evils resulting from the Industrial Revolution. More than ever before would- be reformers pinned their faith on the printed word and on the serious theatre as media for social propaganda (1990:434)”. Hence, the two periods are to be characterized by the dominance of the novel as a vehicle for the sociological studies which attracted most of the great artists of the period, and the rebirth of drama, which appeared after more thatn a hundred years of insignificance since the time of Shakespeare. Like the novelists, most of the important dramatists were namely concerned with the contemporary social scene, and though, toward the end of the period, there are signs of a revival of poetic drama, and prose continues as the normal medium.

Yet, the period of inter-wars (1918-1939) was, according to Albert (1990:507), “overshadowed by the two World Wars –the after-effects of the first and the forebodings of the second. After the Treaty of Versailles (1783) attention in England was still mainly concentrated on foreign affairs- the growing pains of the new League of Nations, uncertainty in the Middle East, and troubles in India and Ireland. The Treaties of Locarno (1925) diminished, at least temporarily, anxieties in Europe, and home affairs began again to dominate English political thought.”

In addition, “the General Strike of 1926 was a major manifestation of the post-War slump, which culminated in the ‘depression’ and ist problems of want and unemployment, which made the early thirties a period of great distress, particularly for the industrial areas. Foreign problems again came to the fore with the rise to power of the Nazis in Germany, and from 1934 until 1939 there was mounting tension abroad, and at home a gradual return to prosperity as industry was geared to rearmament. Spiritually the period saw the immediate post-War mood of desperate gaiety and determined frivolity give way to doubt, uncertainty of aim, and a deeper self- questioning on ethical, social, and political problems, until the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, followed by the critical situation after the evacuation of Dunkirk, enabled the nation to achieve a new unanimity of purpose.”

So, in this section we shall analyse (1) the main features of the period in terms of literature; (2) the main literary forms of the time, thus (a) prose, (b), poetry and (c) drama. Hence, in next chapter, we shall concentrate on the literary forms of drama and prose so as to examine the inter-war literary figures of O’Casey and Joyce, respectively.

3.1. Main features of the inter-war period.

The main features of the inter-war periods are summed up in five key concepts: the breakdown of established values, the resurgence of poetry, the variety of technical experiments in most lieterary genres, the influence of radio and cinema, and the speed of life. First of all, there is in fact

(1) a breakdown of established values because of the perplexity and uncertainty which sprang from the post-War situation. Many different reactions regarding spiritual values were equalled by a great variety of literary work.

(2) Hence the resurgence of poetry whereas the novel and drama were the protagonists in the previous years. Actually, the pre-War years had seen relative eclipse of poetry, and the dominance of the novel and drama as literary forms, but a new and living poetical tradition was demanded and was met between the Wars in his own work and in that of the new poets (T.S. Eliot, W.H. Auden, Cecil Day Lewis, Louis MacNeice). Following Albert (1990:508), “poetry again became a vital literary form closely in touch with life, and if it did not oust the novel from its primacy it certainly outstripped the drama”.

(3) Also, there was a desire for new forms and methods of presentation, and in all the major literary genres the age produced revolutionary developments thanks to two important inventions of the twentieth century: the radio and the cinema.

(4) Actually, the radio and the cinema had an enormous impact on the rapid development of the media and also, had important effects on the literature of the time, which applied these two media techniques. It must be borne in mind that this novelty reduced the time devoted to reading (prose) and going to the theatre (drama) since the radio brought literature at home and the cinema brought a new form of leisure activity. In the form of broadcast stories, plays, films, or literary discussion, a new field was opened for authors who applied film techniques to a number of experiments in the novel.

(5) Finally, since people lived in a new atmosphere of fear and restlessness, the demand was “for more and faster action, stronger and more violent stimulus, and the general atmosphere thus created was by its very nature inimical to the cultivation of literary pursuits, which necessarily demand a degree of calmness of spirit and leisure of mind (Albert, 1990:509).”

3.2. Main literary forms.

3.2.1. Poetry.

Broadly speaking, the hopes for a new world quickly disappeared in people’s minds after the World War I, which caused a general feeling of disillusionment and despair. Writers witnessed how culture disintegrated with no positive values to replace it and soon they felt the need for a new world, for a new outlook on life. Following Albert (1990), the overall impression of this inter-war years coincide with a new awareness of sociological factors which affect poetry, for instance, developments in poetic technique, the difficulty of modern poetry, the combination of psychology and politics, the rise of surrealism and new traditionalism, and the quest for stability. Thus,

developments in poetic technique were soon demanded to show a more realistic way to face up to those difficult years. So, there was a change from old poetic forms to free verse, and also to sprung rhythms, complex verbal patterns, and disregard for normal syntax.

The emphasis on the evolution of new forms gave way to a great difficulty of modern poetry, thus the dominance of form on content and the use of eccentric themes. Hence this difficulty caused an increase in the use of ‘vers libre’ and obscurity to appeal the complex states of mind. This trend was encouraged by the popularity of the metaphysical conceit, which accompanied the rebirth of symbolism (Yeats, French Symbolistes) and the imitation of allusiveness (Eliot). Poetry reflected the situation of those inter-war years: complexity, a refined sensibility, and the use of allusive and indirect language.

Psychology and politics tried to come together under the figures of Sigmund Freud and

Karl Marx, respectively, so as to find a solution to the world problems. Already in the

1920s psychological research made poets turn their attention to the investigation of the hidden impulses of man, and the development of techniques such as the internal monologue and the stream of consciousness in characters. On the other hand, political ideas took up the cause of the masses, whose lives they studied with genuine sympathy and often with striking realism. The Republican support to the Spanish Civil War together with a proletarian sympathy was seen by contemporary England in the form of cheap satire.

The rise of surrealism and new traditionalism also contributed to poetry writing, for instance, the former as an over-simplification of a complex and constantly shifting situation which meant the escape from the complex problems of contemporary life by

means of experiments; the latter as the expression of the individual emotional development and their reactions to their environment. Poetry was then characterized by a detailed observation and lucid phraseology, concise expression, ironic style, stirred by love and sex, out of the scope of experiments, and also on the line of dramatic monologue.

Finally, the quest for stability increased as there was still no strongly established poetic tradition to compare in stability with that of the Victorian age, but a constructive approach to life. During the inter-War years we find a great proportion of didactic verse, and the numerous attempts to find a solution to the problems of a perplexed generation through the use of lyric poetry.

Among the most representative poets of this period, we may mention Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889), T.S. Eliot (1888-1965), Wystan Hugh Auden (1907- 1973), Stephen Spender (1909-1977), C. Day Lewis (1904-1972), Louis MacNeice (1907-1963), Dame Edith Sitwell (1887-1964), and Ezra Pound (1885-1972).

rose: the novel.

3.2.2. Drama.

As for poetry, the situation of the inter-War years was deeply felt in the English theatre, and therefore, in Ireland within the Irish Literary Revival Drama. Following Albert (1990), after the war the sociological factors which affected this literary form were, broadly speaking, the conditions in the theatre, the decline of realism, the development of comedy, the popularity of the history play, the revival of poetic drama and the experiments abroad and at home. Thus,

By the 1920s the conditions in the English theatre was defined as poor since there were no worth productions since Shaw’s Pygmalion (1913). The increasing demand for light and escapist entertaintment for troops had made spectacle and musical comedy supreme on the London stage. It must be borne in mind that in the early part of this period the cause of serious drama in England depended almost entirely on a few enlightened individuals (Lilian Baylis, Sir Barry Jackson, Sir Nigel Playfair). In addition, the arrival of the cinema constituted a new threat to the theatre since it quickly became the main way of entertainment of the masses. The cinema was a powerful competitor as it is today due to the ability to offer sensation, spectacle on a scale impossible in the theatre, and the novelty of a new art form.

Other hopeful aspects of dramatic activity are found under the growth of the amateur dramatic movement regarding the British Drama League (1919) and the Scottish Community Drama Association, both created to stimulate drama. Yet, it must be born in mind that and this growth of repertory in England and Ireland (1890-1918) was promoted by the arduous struggle to create an audience for the new drama (troops). This led to seek additional support in the provinces, and thus came into being the repertory movement2, whose chief aim was to encourage the writing of realistic problem plays in the new tradition, and among the dramatists who there came to the fore were St John Ervine (1883-1971), W. Stanley Houghton (1881-1913) and Allan Monkhouse (1858-


Repertory companies of distinction were founded in Liverpool (1911) and Birmigham (1913). But most important of the theatrical developments outside London was the creation of the Irish National Theatre in Dublin. Of the dramatists who wrote for this theatre, Yeats and Synge looked on the drama as a thing of the emotions, and, reacting against realism, sought their themes among the legends, folklore, and peasantry of Ireland.

The decline of realism takes place after the 1920s, that is, after realism and naturalism had dominated the work of most English dramatists. Yet, the movement from realism is the keynote of the inter-War period and is namely reflected in the greatest new inter- War dramatist, O’Casey, though he bases his plays on a truthful picture of Dublin slum life, and has the ability to transform his works into real poetry, where the new literary trends are sentimentalism and the concern with the after-life.

The development of comedy caught the atmosphere of the later twenties and therefore was quite popular. Yet, there were not major comedy writers as in the novel.

Similarly, the popularity of the history play was only second to that of comely. Yet, the vogue of this genre in modern times began witht he work of John Drinkwater (1882-

1937), who was one of the founders of the Birmingham Repertory Company, where numerous history plays took place.

The revival of poetic drama is another development of the inter-War period which, according to Albert (1990:556) “illustrates the dissatisfaction with realism and the tradition of naturalistic prose dialogue.” Many experiments in verse drama followed, but their success on the commercial stage was very limited. Thus,, T. S. Eliot’s plays

clip_image001[1]attracted considerable attention and also those of James Elroy Flecker. Yet, as in the

2 A season of Shaw repertory was given in 1904 at the Court Theatre under the Vedrenne-Barker management, and in

1907 Miss A.E.F. Horniman (1860-1937) abandoned her active interest in the Abbey Theatre, Dublin to found “Miss

Horniman’s Company,” which, at the Gaiety Theatre, Manchester, developed into the Manchester Repertory


pre-War period, the real spirit of poetic drama was caught by one whose normal medium was prose. Even apart from his ‘expressionist’ experiments, we may say that O’Casey’s works show more of the genuine poetic fire than that of any of the dramatists here mentioned except T.S. Eliot.

Finally, the experiments abroad and at home also affected the literary forms. The reaction against realism was felt on the Continent before it was felt in England. By 1920 there was experimental drama being written in Russia, Germany, Czechoslovakia, Italy, and France. Expressionism was the most influential experiment since drama was concerned not only with society but also with man. “It aimed to offer a deep, subjective, psychological analysis, not so much of an individual as of a type, and it made much of the subconscious” (Albert, 1999:557). In addition, the expressionists threw the conventional structure in favour of an unrestricted freedom, full of a mix between verse and prose, symbolic figures, embodiments of inner, secret impulses so as to make clear the psychological complexities of character.

The most outstanding expressionist dramatists were theAmerican Eugene O’Neill and Elmer Rice. In England the influence of expressionism is to be seen in O’Casey, Priestley, and James Bridie.

3.2.3. Prose.

There is no doubt that the Victorian era was the age of the English novel, namely realistic, thickly plotted, crowded with characters, and long. By the end of the period, the novel was considered not only the premier form of entertainment but also a primary means of analyzing and offering solutions to social and political problems, only challenged by the revival of drama towards the last two decades. This king style, the novel, is presented with a political, philosophical or social overtone since was the ideal form to describe contemporary life and to entertain the middle class.

Yet, the twentieth century witnesses the development of the novel into new revolutionary techniques as well as the genres of poetry and drama. Thus, we shall examine the novel in relation to, for instance, the new approach as an interpreter of life, experiments in the evolution of a new technique, the influence of pshychology, the lack of popularity of the new novelists, writers in the established tradition, war books, satire, escapist novels, the autobiographical- novel-sketch comedies, and the growth of the American novel under the figures of the lost generation.

The novel was regarded as an interpreter of life since it reflected the disillusionment, cynicism, despair, and bewilderment in face of the crumbling of established moral values which characterize the post-War world. These features, combined with its form and content, made the inter-War generation look to the novel for an interpretation of the contemporary scene. According to Albert (1990:521), we may distinguish three main groups of novelists: first, those who attempted to replace the old values for new ones; second, those who portrayed the complexities of inter-War life; and finally, those who focused attention on the impact of life on the individual consciousness and on characters rather than action.

This practice is closely connected to impressionism which gives way to expressionistic techniques based on experiments, which establish a clear difference between the pre- War novel (Henry James) and that of the inter-War years (James Joyce). Namely the novel develops from having a controlled, finished, artistic form to have a more loose, fluid, and less coherent one; from presenting an outward appearance to inner realities of life; from a simple chronological development of plot to a complex and discontinuous one. Apart from James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, and aldous Huxley, other who experimented in this way included Dorothy Miller Richardson and May Sinclair.

Yet, the most representative technique of this period is drawn from the influence of pshychology so as to present the mind of the characters: the stream of consciousness, the use of the interior monologue, the detailed tracing of the association of ideas, and an allusive style. The rapid development of the science of psychology did much to deepen and enrich the study of human character in the early years, but its full impact came with the works of Sigmund Freud about the study of personality. This opened the way to the exploration of the vast fields of the subconscious and the unconscious so as to dwell the mind of characters, which meant a breakdown of Victorian moral attitudes.

The lack of popularity of the new novelists is not surprising, according to Alfred (1990:524) as their concern with the subtlest shades of motive and inner impulse called for readers while the preoccupation of some with the morbid mental states provoked distaste. So, it is not surprising either that writers in the Established tradition were inevitably more popular since they wrote after the manner of an earlier generation. Among these writers we find Sir Hugh Walpole (1884-1941), William Somerset Maugham (1874-1965), John Boynton Prietley (1894-), Sir Compton Mackenzie (1883-

1972), Francis Brett Young (1884- 1954), and Robert Graves (1895-), among others.

“Another reflection of the disillusionment of the post-War generation is to be found in the literature on the War itself, which began to appear once the catastrophe was sufficiently remote”. Among the War writers we include Edmund Blunden (1896- 1974), Robert Graves (1895-), and C.E. Montague (1867-1928), among others.

Satire was also common as a form of fiction. Satirist writers are Rose Macaulay (1881-

1958), Ronald Firbank (1886-1926), and Cyril Connolly (1903-1974).

Another genre was escapist novels, characteristic of all periods of great emotional and moral tension. This type of novel was highly demanded in the 1920s, which was partly met by imaginative, fantastic, and light writ ing. Among the most representative writers we include Norman Douglas, Walter de la Mare, and David Garnett.

We also find autobiographical-novel-sketch comedies with tragic implications which particularly show the after-war situation in the 1930s. Thus, popular writers are Christopher Isherwood, Richard Hughes, and Leopold Hamilton Myers, among others. Finally, it is worth mentioning the growth of the American novel since it is one of the most striking features of the period. Following Albert (1990:528), “since the turn of the century, not only has the U.S.A. given encouragement and shelter to artists whose work met with opposition in this country, but Americans have been among the boldest so far as experiments in technique are concerned. The basis of most of their work was realism, the depiction of the contemporary scene no matter how unlovely, the exposure of corruption and lack of moral values in organizations and in people, the consideration of emotional crises and moral dilemmas at all levels of society, and the portrayal of the individual and the depths or heights with which he can be faced”.

Among the most relevant writers we mention Erners Hemingway (1898-1962), William

Faulkner (1897-1962), F. Scott Fitzgerald (1896- 1940), J. Steinbeck (1902-1968), John

Dos Passos (1896-1970), and Theodore Dreiser (1871-1945), among others.


In Chapter 4 we shall attempt to provide a general account of the most outstanding Irish authors, that is, Sean O’Casey and James Joyce. Therefore, we shall present these two authors in the following order: (1) Sean O’Casey (1884- 1964) and (2) James Joyce (1882- 1941) in terms of life, works, main themes and style.

4.1. Sean O’Casey (1884-1964).

Following Albert (1990:548- 550), Sean O’Casey “was born in Dublin, and worked as a labourer, living in the crowded tenements of Dublin’s slums, which he describes so vividly in his early plays. After his early stage successes he made literature his career, and in 1926 received the Hawthornden Prize. O’Casey’s first play, The Shadow of a Gunman , was produced

at the Abbey Theatre in 1923. Its setting is the slum tenements of Dublin, in their crowded squalor, and it is an unflinching study of the Anglo-Irish War of 1920, capturing well all the bloodiness and violence of the struggle and the dangerous intensity of the lives of the participants, his characters”.

“O’Casey, as later, uses the device of a mouthpiece character, who here gives an ironical commentary on the events. The chief heroic character is a woman, as in Juno and the Paycock (1924), an infinitely more mature play, and his masterpiece. Again the setting is the Dublin slums: the time now the civil disturbances of 1922. It is a vivid and intensely powerful play, in which rich, almost grotesque humour covers yet emphasizes the underlying bitter tragedy”.

“Three of O’Casey’s finest creations figure here –the deeply pitying Juno, her worthless husband, the ‘Paycock’, and his boon companion, Joxer Daly. The Plough and the Stars (1926), a tragic chronicle play dealing with the Easter rising of 1916, is equally realistic in its exposure of the futility and horror of war. There is the same blend of grotesque humour and deep tragedy, and once again O’Casey makes use of the mouthpiece character”.

“His next play, The Silver Tassie (1929), was refused by the Abbey Theatre and failed on the boards, though some have described it as the most powerful tragedy o our day. War is still the theme, now the 1914-1918 War. O’Casey gives an impassioned and bitter picture of the footballer hero retuning paralysed from the trenches. It is unflinching in its truthfulness, and the suffering in the play is intense –perhaps there is too much suffering and too little action. It is of particular interest because here O’Casey experiments with the mingling of the realistic and expressionistic types of drama”.

“His introduction of a symbolic technique is seen in the blending of prose and rhythmic chanted verse, which gives tremendous power to the second act in particular. How far his experiments have, as has been thought, subdued his great gifts it is difficult to say, but his later plays Within the Gates (1933), The Star Turns Red (1940), Purple Dust (1940), Red Roses for Me (1946), Oak Leaves and Lavender (1946), and Cockadoodle Dandy (1949), do not have the intense life of his best three, though the magic of his language remains”.

Juno and the Paycock, The Plough and the Stars, and The Silver Tassie marked O’Casey out as the greatest figure in the inter-War theatre. His own experience enabled him to study the life of the Dublin slums with the warm understanding with which Synge studied the life of the Irish peasantry, and, like Synge, he coud draw magic from the language of the ordinary folk he portrayed. His dialogue is vivid, racy, and packed with metaphor, and his prose is rhythmical

and imaginative. He had, too, Synge’s gift of mingling comedy with the tragedy that is his main theme. In O’Casey the mood changes rapidly. Comedy is seldom long absent, yet one can never forget the grim, underlying sadness. He draws what he sees with a ruthless objectivity and an impressionistic vividness of detail.”

4.2. James Joyce (1882-1941).

Following Albert (1990:513-515), James Joyce was born in Dublin and was the son of middle – class Irish parents. “He was educated in Jesuit colleges and at the Royal University. He abandoned the idea of taking orders, however, and shortly after the turn of the century he left Ireland for France. In Paris he studied medicine and thought of becoming a professional singer. During the 1914-1918 War he taught languages in Switzerland [since he was medically unfit for service], and afterward returned to Paris, where he settled down to a literary life, struggling continually against ill-health and public opposition to his work”.

Regarding his literary contribution, he used a straightforward narrative technique in his first work, Dubliners (1914) so as to achieve an objective, short story study of the sordid Dublin slums. The result was a powerful written prose whic h, though simple, has a distinct individual flavour. “Set in the same city is A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), an intense account of a developing writer torn between the standards of an ascetic, religious upbringing and his desire for sensuousness. Though the work is largely autobiographical (Stephen Dedalus is Joyce), the writer preserves a cool detachment in the precise analysis of his hero’s spiritual life. His handling of the sexual problems involved is particularly forthright.”

“An earlier version, much more conventional in style, was Stephen Hero, which was not published until 1944. The artistic dilemma of Stephen-Joyce was re-expressed in his unsuccessful play Exiles (1918). Stephen Dedalus appears again in Ulysses (1922), a study of the life and mind of Leopold and Mrs Bloom during a single day. It is modelled on the Odyssey of Homer, but it is set in the squalor of Dublin’s slums. There are parallel characters in the two works, and the structure is in each case the same; these likenesses are deliberately invoked to stress the sordid meanness of modern life as contrasted with life in the heroic age”.

“The ‘stream of consciousness’ technique and the internal monologue are used with great power, and Bloom has been described as the most complete character in fiction. The material is handled objectively and with a frankness that caused the book to be banned as obscene: the style shows clearly Joyce’s mastery of language, his ingenuity, brilliance, and power. Published in

the same year as The Waste Land [1922], it presents a similar view of the hopeless dilemma of man in the post-War world. It appeared in The Little Review in America, but was banned after the fifth instalment, and this ban was not lifted in England until 1933.”

“Joyce’s only other novel was Finnegan’s Wake (1939), parts of which had appeared as early as

1927 and 1928 as Work in Progress and Anna Livia Plurabelle. In it he has developed his technique to a point where subtlety of the history of the human race from its earliest beginnings, as seen in the incoherent dreams of a certain Mr Earwicker. The use of an inconsecutive narrative and of a private vocabulary adds to the confusion, but it cannot conceal the poetic furor, the power, and brilliant verbal skill of the work”.

Among his novels’ features we shall examine his subjects, his technique and his style. First of all, regarding his subjects, Joyce is regarded as a “serious novelist, whose concern is chiefly with human relationships –man in relation to himself, to society, and to the whole race. This is true also of his latest work, though his interest in linguistic experiments makes it difficult to understand his meaning. Acutely aware of the pettiness and meanness of modern society, and of the evils which spring from it, he is unsurpassed in his knowledge of the seamy side of life, which he presents with startling frankness. He is a keen and subtle analyst of man’s inner consciousness, and, in common with the psycho-analysis of his day, he is much preoccupied with sex”.

Regarding his technique, Joyce is said to be a pioneer in the quest of a new technique to present the contemporary human dilemma. “He was a ceaseless experimenter, ever anxious to explore the potentialities of a method once it was evolved, and in his use of the ‘stream of consciousness’ technique, and in his handling of the internal monologue, he went further and deeper than any other. His sensitiveness, his depth of penetration into the human consciousness, give to his character-study a subtlety unparalleled in his day, and if, in his attempts to catch delicate and elusive shades of feeling and fix them in words, he has frequently become incomprehensible, the fact remains that a character like Leopold Bloom is a unique and fascinating creation”.

Finally, his style has been defined as a change from an early straightforward and simple writing to a complex, allusive and original one in his last years. In this latter, Joyce uses a broken narrative, with abrupt transitions, the omission of logical sentence links and a new vocabulary. This produces a pure writing which is often private in significance, that is, a writing in which words are coined by the breaking up of one word and the joining of its parts to parts of other words similarly split, and roots of words from many languages.

“Joyce’s interest in language and his eager experimentation are unequalled in any period of our

literature. He has a sensitive ear for verbal rhythms and cadences, and uses language in his books as part of an elaborately conceived artistic pattern, in which much of the unity of his work lies. With the beauty of language for its own sake only he is usually little concerned, yet his writing is often of great imaginative power and has a musical quality which enables even his incomprehensible passages to be read aloud with considerable pleasure.” In short, he preferred the comic to the tragic view of life, and his humour may be comic, intellectual and even sardonic in tone.


Literature, and therefore, literary language is one of the most salient aspects of educational activity. In classrooms all kinds of literary language (poetry, drama, prose –novel, short story, minor fiction-, periodicals) either spoken or written, is going on for most of the time. Yet, handling literary productions in the past makes relevant the analysis of literature in the twentieth century, and in particular, Irish literature for our purposes. Yet, what do students know about Irish literature and its main authors? At this point it makes sense to examine the historical background of Britain and Ireland within the twentieth century so as to provide an appropriate context for these two Irish authors in our students’ background knowledge and check what they know about it.

Since literature may be approached in linguistic terms, regarding form and function (morphology, lexis, structure, form) and also from a cross-curricular perspective (Sociology, History, English, French, Spanish Language and Literature), Spanish students are expected to know about the history of Britain and its influence in the world. In addition, one of the objectives of teaching the English language is to provide good models of almost any kind of literary productions for future studies.

Currently, action research groups attempt to bring about change in classroom learning and teaching through a focus on literary production under two premises. First, because they believe learning is an integral aspect of any form of activity and second, because education at all levels must be conceived in terms of literature and history. The basis for these assumptions is to be found in an attempt, through the use of historical events, to develop understanding of students’ shared but diverse social and physical environment.

Learning involves a process of transformation of participation itself which has far reaching implications on the role of the teacher in the teaching- learning relationship. This means that literary productions are an analytic tool and that teachers need to identify the potential contributions and potential limitations of them before we can make good use of the historical events which frame the literary period. So, literature productions may be easily approached by means of the subjects of History, Language and Literature by establishing a paralelism with the Spanish one (age, literature forms, events).

Moreover, nowadays new technologies (the Internet, DVD, videocamera) and the media (TV, radio, cinema) may provide a new direction to language teaching as they set more appropriate context for students to experience the target culture. Present-day approaches deal with a communicative competence model in which first, there is an emphasis on significance over form, and secondly, motivation and involvement are enhanced by means of new technologies and the media . Hence literary productions and the history of the period may be approched in terms of films and drama representations in class, among others, and in this case, by means of books (novels: historical, terror, descriptive) and drama (opera, comedies, plays), among others.

Actually, O’Casey and Joyce’s influence upon 20th-century literature was wide since most of their works have been approached in terms of literature, plays or films. For instance, O’Casey’s three best plays, Juno and the Paycock, The Plough and the Stars, and The Silver Tassie marked him out as the greatest figure in the inter-War theatre as well as with Joyce, whose fame was drawn from his three main novels Dubliners (1914), A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) and Ulysses (1922), where the former has been recently filmed.

The success partly lies in the way literary works become real to the users. Some of this motivational force is brought about by intervening in authentic communicative events. Otherwise, we have to recreate as much as possible the whole cultural environment in the classroom by means of novels, short stories, documentaries, history books, or their family’s stories. This is to be achieved within the framework of the European Council (1998) and, in particular, the Spanish Educational System which establishes a common reference framework for the teaching of foreign languages where students are intended to carry out several communication tasks with specific communicative goals, for instance, how to locate a literary work within a particular historical period.

Analytic interpretation of texts in all genres should become part of every literary student’s basic competence (B.O.E., 2004). There are hidden influences at work beneath the textual surface: these may be sociocultural, inter and intratextual. The literary student has to discover these, and

wherever necessary apply them in further examination. The main aims that our currently educational system focuses on are mostly sociocultural, to facilitate the study of cultural themes, as our students must be aware of their current social reality within the European framework.


Since literature reflects the main concerns of a nation at all levels, it is extremely important for students to be aware of the close relationship between History and Literature so as to understand the main plot of a novel, short story, or any other form of literary production (play, comedy, poem). In this unit, we have partic ularly approached the first half of the twentieth century from the Irish perspective, and in particular, through the eyes of two of its most outstanding authors, O’Casey and Joyce.

It is worth pointing out that both authors shared similarities and differences, for instance, they both were born in the 1880s, were of Irish Dublin backgrounds , studied the life of the Dublin slums, wrote about Ireland problems (the Anglo-Irish War in 1920, the Easter rising in 1916, the First World War), and experimented with modernist techniques in their writings (stream of consciousness, humour in tragedy, rhythmic language –almost musical- , the blending of prose and verse). Yet, though they lived in the same period, they explored the human mind and social problems from different perspectives: O’Casey from drama and Joyce from the novel.

So, on examining all this information we have addressed the historical relations between Ireland and Great Britain so as to provide an overall view of the context in which these authors lived and pr oduced their works together with a literary background in Chapter 3 with the aim of going further into the main literary features of the period. In doing so, we have established an appropriate context for the two Irish authors, Sean O’Casey and James Joyce in Chapter 4, where we have linked their lives to history so as to understand the themes and style of their most outstanding works. Finally, after examining the main educational implications in language teaching regarding the introduction of this issue in the classroom setting, we bring the current presentation to an end by providing the bibliography of this study for further references.

So far, we have attempted to provide the reader with a historical background on the vast amount of literature productions in the twentieth century. This information is relevant for language

learners, E.S.O. and Bachillerato students, who may not automatically establish similiarities between British, Spanish and worldwide literary works. So, learners need to have these associations brought to their attention in cross-curricular settings. As we have seen, understanding how literature developed and is reflected in our world today is important to students, who are expected to be aware of the richness of English literature, not only in Great Britain but also in other English-speaking countries.


Albert, Edward. 1990. A History of English Literature. Walton-on-Thames. Nelson. 5th edition

(Revised by J.A. Stone).

B.O.E. 2004. Consejería de Educación y Cultura. Decreto N.º 116/2004, de 23 de enero. Currículo de la Educación Secundaria Obligatoria en la Comunidad Autónoma de la Región de Murcia.

B.O.E. 2004. Consejería de Educación y Cultura. Decreto N.º 117/2004, de 23 de enero. Currículo de Bachillerato en la Comunidad Autónoma de la Región de Murcia.

Council of Europe (1998) Modern Languages: Learning, Teaching, Assessment. A Common

European Framework of reference.

Magnusson, M., and Goring, R. (eds.). 1990. Cambridge Biographical Dictionary. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Palmer, R. 1980. Historia Contemporánea, Akal ed., Madrid.

Sanders, A. 1996. The Short Oxford History of English Literature. Oxford University Press. Rogers, P. 1987. The Oxford Illustrated History of English Literature. Oxford University Press.

Speck, W.A. 1998. Literature and Society in Eighteenth-Century England: Ideology Politics and Culture 1680-1820. Book Reviews.

Thoorens, Léon. 1969. Panorama de las literaturas Daimon: Inglaterra y América del Norte. Gran Bretaña y Estados Unidos de América. Ediciones Daimon.

van Ek, J.A., and J.L.M. Trim, 2001. Vantage. Council of Europe. Cambridge University Press.