Literary Revival

In Ireland, the purpose of the literary revival aimed at restoring the national identity of the Irish people. Yeats, like many playwrights, wanted to compose literature that will support the aspirations for Irish nationalism. In his play, Cathleen ni Houlihan, Yeats symbolizes Ireland as a white damsel in distress to call upon his Irishmen to fight for national independence. Moreover, he wanted his nationalistic message to be understood by the general population of Ireland. Yeats, like many other playwrights, did not want to produce plays that only catered to the well-educated and rich people of Ireland. In the 1890’s Irish theaters, like the Irish National Literary Theatre, invoked a sense of national identity by conveying its message for independence through literary symbolism. Indeed, Yeats rejects the Victorian drama of English theater:

[The Irish National Literary Theatre] aimed at being ‘literary’ in the tradition of the new art theatres of the 1890s, with their dreamlike, understated symbolism, their denial of spectacular productions and their preference for small audiences of refined cognoscenti; and it aimed at being ‘national’ in the sense that it hoped to lift Irish culture out of second-rate drab provincialism and to let Ireland, in terms of threatre and literature at least, take its place among the nations of Europe.[1]

Moreover, this rejection speaks against the Victorian sensibilities prescribed by the imperial English narrative because this narrative only compliment people that express their values. In turn, the rejection of Victorian values is, also, a rejection of the Irish Ascendency because the Ascendency liked the bourgeoisie melodramas that reflected the values of the English Victorian era.

[1] Cambridge Companion to Modern Irish Drama, 51.

Memory and Literary Revival

Identity and the Literary Revival

Reception and the Literary Revival

Hamilton and Cathleen Ni Houlihan?: Irish and American Dramatic Representations of Colonial Rebellion