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Ireland and the Problem of Information: Irish Writing, Radio, Late Modernist Communication

Ireland and the Problem of Information: Irish Writing, Radio, Late Modernist Communication

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Ireland and the Problem of Information: Irish Writing, Radio, Late Modernist Communication

422 pagine
6 ore
Oct 23, 2014


Though the work of Irish writers has been paramount in conventional accounts of literary modernism, Ireland itself only rarely occupies a meaningful position in accounts of modernism’s historical trajectory. With an itinerary moving not simply among Dublin, Belfast, and London but also Paris, New York, Addis Ababa, Rome, Berlin, Geneva, and the world’s radio receivers, Ireland and the Problem of Information examines the pivotal mediations through which social knowledge was produced in the mid-twentieth century. Organized as a series of cross-fading case studies, the book argues that an expanded sphere of Irish cultural production should be read as much for what it indicates about practices of intermedial circulation and their consequences as for what it reveals about Irish writing around the time of the Second World War. In this way, it positions the “problem of information” as, first and foremost, an international predicament, but one with particular national implications for the Irish field.

Oct 23, 2014

Informazioni sull'autore

Damien Keane is Associate Professor of English at the University at Buffalo.

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Ireland and the Problem of Information - Damien Keane











The Pennsylvania State University Press

University Park, Pennsylvania

Permission to quote Louis MacNeice’s poem The Unoccupied Zone has been granted by the Estate of Louis MacNeice and David Higham Associates.

Permission to cite the Princeton Listening Center Records has been granted by the Princeton University Library.

Thanks to the deputy keeper of the records at the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland for help with the records of the Northern Ireland Cabinet.

An earlier version of part of chapter 1 appeared in De Valera, Du Bois, and the Ethiopian Crisis, Foilsiú 5, no. 1 (2006): 1–11. An earlier version of part of chapter 4 appeared in Francis Stuart to America, 9 June 1940, Dublin Review 14 (Spring 2004): 53–56.

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Keane, Damien, 1973– , author.

Ireland and the problem of information : Irish writing, radio, late modernist communication / Damien Keane.

pages    cm—(Refiguring modernism)

Summary: A series of studies examining literary modernism in Ireland. Explores how cultural work assumed new meaning amid the strategic imperatives of the mid-twentieth century, and demonstrates how the late modernist field became today’s information age—Provided by publisher.

Includes bibliographical references and index.

ISBN 978-0-271-06412-3 (cloth : alk. paper)

1. Modernism (Literature)—Ireland—History—20th century.

2. English literature—Irish authors—20th century—History and criticism.

3. Radio broadcasting—Ireland—History—20th century.

4. World War, 1939–1945—Radio broadcasting and the war.

I. Title.

II. Series: Refiguring modernism.

PR8755.K427 2014



Copyright © 2014 The Pennsylvania State University

All rights reserved

Printed in the United States of America

Published by The Pennsylvania State University Press, University Park, PA 16802-1003

The Pennsylvania State University Press is a member of the Association of American University Presses.

It is the policy of The Pennsylvania State University Press to use acid-free paper. Publications on uncoated stock satisfy the minimum requirements of American National Standard for Information Sciences—Permanence of Paper for Printed Library Material, ANSI Z39.48–1992.

This book is printed on paper that contains 30% post-consumer waste.

FOR my mother     



Introduction: The Problem of Information


The Remediation of Waves


Dirty Work in New York


The Irish Free Zone


Radio Pages

Conclusion: Compression and Cross-Fade





Among other things, this book is about relations, and it makes me happy finally to be in the position to offer public thanks to the people who have enabled me to get here. This project began at the University of Pennsylvania, where Jean-Michel Rabaté guided its progress with remarkable patience and superb insight; following the direction of his comment (important: need more information) on a dissertation footnote led me circuitously, and ultimately, to this book. Vicki Mahaffey has been serially perceptive not only of the project’s aims, but of what lies behind it. Jim English was an early advocate of my work, although I only recognized much later how fundamental his influence has been to its formation. For their support and counsel, I also wish to thank Margreta de Grazia, Elaine Freedgood, Heather Love, and Jo Park.

At Queen’s University, Belfast, the sharp eyes and good ears of Eamonn Hughes, Edna Longley, and the late Michael Allen continue to motivate my sense of critical engagement. All these years on, what I learned at Vassar College from Wendy Graham, Eamon Grennan, and Richard Severo remains central to my research and teaching, and I am especially grateful to them for encouraging me to see possibilities both near and distant.

To good friends made in Philadelphia, thanks for all the reasons I do not articulate often enough: Tim Albro, Jeff Allred, Hester Blum, Rachel Buurma, Matt Hart, Laura Heffernan, Rayna Kalas, Carolyn and Tommaso Lesnick, John Lessard, Matt Merlino, Cindy Port, Martha Schoolman, Kathy Lou Schultz, Hannah Wells, and Caitlin Wood.

Since arriving at Buffalo, I have been lucky in finding myself among a buoying and brilliant group of colleagues and friends: Jamie Currie, Molly Hutton, Michael Sayeau, Bill Solomon, Scott Stevens, Joe Valente, and Hershini Bhana Young. My students have been a persistent source of happiness, in particular Beth Blum, Stephen Boyd, J. C. Cloutier, Ronan Crowley, Julianna Crumlish, Amanda Duncan, Megan Faragher, John Hyland, Maura Pellettieri, and Alex Porco, from all of whom I have learned so much. I would be disgracefully remiss not to offer deepest thanks to the staff of the English Department, notably Wendy Belz, Sophia Canavos, and Nicole Lazaro, who make it all happen while also making me laugh.

My work would be impossible without the expertise and dedication of librarians, catalogers, archivists, and other library staff. In particular, I would like to thank Michael Basinski, Austin Booth, James Maynard, and Laura Taddeo of the University Libraries at the State University of New York at Buffalo.

More recently, I have been fortunate in meeting and working with new colleagues in a variety of forums, their acute responses to papers or presentations always offered in welcoming and intellectually enriching fashion. In particular, I would like to acknowledge the generosity of Paul Saint-Amour and Debra Rae Cohen, who, by their kindness and patience, have reminded me of important things I am prone to forget.

My two greatest intellectual experiences have come from being a part of collective endeavors: as a member of the Mods Group at Penn and as a fellow at the Society for the Humanities at Cornell. My year at Cornell was restorative and inspiring, due in large measure to the graciousness of the staff of the Society, its director Tim Murray, and the other fellows. I am especially indebted to Duane Corpis, Sarah Ensor, Tom McEnaney, and Jennifer Stoever.

I owe special and heartfelt thanks to Jeremy Braddock and Jon Eburne: their humor and dedication, their alacrity and hard work, have been sustaining me for years. This book owes a great deal to their intellectual fellowship, but I owe much more to their friendship.

An only child, I am very grateful to be a part of a large extended family, for whom I have the deepest respect and greatest love. I admire Tim Bowles for his humane perspective and profound belief in fairness. For their unstinting hospitality, sense of the world, and caustic humor, Rosemary Keane and Lisa Hogarty are wonderful, the sisters I never had. I simply marvel at my grandparents, Rose and Robert Keane and Frank Falcone, and their sense of history lies close to the heart of this book.

It makes me sad that my father, Michael, did not live to see this book. While we did not always see eye to eye, I hear echoes of his voice in its pages, just as I have heard his voice at some point during every day since his passing. Even so, I miss him terribly.

This book is dedicated to my mother, Donna, because of what she has taught me about dignity. As a single mother, she had to go through changes of which I was only dimly aware, but my strongest impression of growing up is of how much fun we had together. All my life she has made me know and feel that her love for me, her belief in me, are constant because of who I am. An honest Calabrese proverb (cui cerca trova e cui dorma si sonni) reminds me of her, among other reasons because it was she who provided that I sleep and thereby enabled me to dream. My respect for her is unbounded, and I love her because of who she is.

And, finally, to Gabriela Zoller, the loveliest person I know, for her very goodness in the world.


The Problem of Information

Just after the end of the Second World War, a small, plain booklet titled Ireland’s Stand was published in Dublin collecting a selection of speeches delivered by Eamon de Valera, the Irish Taoiseach, during the six years of conflict. Drawn from press interviews, statements made in Dáil sessions, and radio broadcasts, the speeches outline the evolving rationale for the state’s wartime policy of neutrality. As its title suggests, the booklet as a whole was also meant to defend the policy in the postwar world, in which the niceties of national self-preservation, practiced and articulated seemingly without regard for larger ideological or geopolitical alignments, were receiving an even less welcome hearing than they had in the decade before the war. Indeed, for many officials and opinion makers in the victorious Allied nations, Irish neutrality remained all but synonymous with collaboration. While not an official government publication, Ireland’s Stand was nevertheless produced within the ambit of the Government Publications Office and distributed—especially to interested foreign readers—through the Government Information Bureau.¹ With its cream-colored cover, the booklet can thus be rightly viewed as a form of off-white propaganda, poised between openly announcing and quietly dampening its source. The opening paragraph of its anonymous introduction manifests this affiliation: The years 1939 to 1945 were years of national tension in Ireland. They brought forward in their most acute form questions of international relationship, defense, supplies and food production. Happily, the Irish people and the Irish Government were at one in these grave matters, and by that unity and the discipline and self-sacrifice of the community as a whole the many perils in the situation were avoided and Irish neutrality was maintained.² Balancing the peril, gravity, and tension of the war years against the communal self-determination both secured and represented by neutrality, the rhetoric of the passage underscores what had already become the familiar official image of Ireland’s stand: that of singular perseverance amid exceptionally dangerous impositions on the state’s independence. As propaganda, the passage provides an effective set of strong terms and associations with which to inform the meaning of neutrality.

Because of the familiarity of this image, it is fundamental to note the peculiar idiom of the passage, which on its own seems to clash with the conventional harmonics of Irish neutrality. Between grim poles of global devastation and national preservation, the passage turns on the word happily, a mediating term meant to convey grateful and fortunate relief, but also carrying the sense of secure and appropriate contentment. Given that the war years in Ireland have since become characterized by their unremitting claustrophobia and horizonless isolation, this turn is at best odd. Yet it chimes with what is perhaps the most famous Irish statement of the war years, a speech made by de Valera that is not, however, collected in Ireland’s Stand: his St. Patrick’s Day broadcast of 1943. Delivered on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of the founding of the Gaelic League, the speech has come to exemplify the insular vision of Irish life, its second paragraph alone standing as the regressive essence of what passes for de Valera’s Ireland:

Acutely conscious though we all are of the misery and desolation in which the greater part of the world is plunged, let us turn aside for a moment to that ideal Ireland that we would have. That Ireland which we dreamed of would be the home of a people who valued material wealth only as the basis of right living, of a people who were satisfied with frugal comfort and devoted their leisure to the things of the spirit—a land whose countryside would be bright with cosy homesteads, whose fields and villages would be joyous with the sounds of industry, with the romping of sturdy children, the contests of athletic youths and the laughter of comely maidens, whose firesides would be the forums for the wisdom of serene old age. It would, in a word, be the home of a people living the life that God desires that man should live.³

The devotion paid by later critics to this single paragraph of a single broadcast, as though de Valera never uttered another word into a microphone, is almost touching. With some justification, de Valera has been taken to task for flattening the diversity of Irish experience in articulating a traditionally sanctioned, rurally based conception of society, one apparently unable to comprehend happiness outside the confines of field, family, church, and language. But this reading comes at the cost of ignoring the broadcast’s attention to the risks of increasing stratification amid scarcity, to the possibility of concentrating privilege with those already possessing it. Its vision of self-sufficient contentment based on shared commitments to health, welfare, and respect is indeed all the more plangent for its conditionality.⁴ Hardly the outline of a program of national redistribution, the speech nonetheless understands the ideal Ireland that we would have by recognizing the very real constraints on its achievement.

These constraints are spelled out in the other fourteen paragraphs of the broadcast, in which the ongoing pursuit of an ideal self-determination is rhetorically couched among the all-too-real challenges to Irish independence. The speech explicitly identifies the latter as the material conditions of the war, what the second paragraph names as the misery and desolation in which the greater part of the world is plunged. Closing the speech in Irish, de Valera again sounds this note in its final paragraph, contrasting the calamity (anachain) and misfortune (mí-ádh) brought by the war with the protection (scáth) and shelter (dídean) afforded by non-belligerence.⁵ Within this frame, the Ireland which we dreamed of represents not the idealist renunciation of the realities of the world, but a momentary inward turn toward alternative possibilities that is itself necessitated by those realities. Taken in its entirety, the speech insists on this relationship, and the point becomes even sharper when the speech is read in the context of the policy statements collected in Ireland’s Stand. Nowhere in the text of the St. Patrick’s Day broadcast does the word neutrality appear, and this fact might account for why it was not included in a booklet partly aimed at foreign readers; yet in the speech, neutrality everywhere serves as the term mediating between misery and desolation close at hand and the possibility of future contentment. In response to the German invasion of the neutral Low Countries in May 1940, de Valera made this very point: You know that we have declared our neutrality and proclaimed our desire and intention to save our people from the horrors of this war. Small countries like ours had the same desire. Some of these small countries had no greater wish than not to be involved in the war. They have been involved against their will, not having done anything as far as we can see to deserve what has happened them. The fact that we want to keep out of this war may not be sufficient to save us.⁶ As a real and dynamic practice, neutrality—and not the invocation of an ideal Ireland—embodied the response to wartime constraints on independence. In this moment, safeguarding Irish autonomy thus hinged on the acute consciousness of the wider crises of self-preservation ushered in by the war.

One marker of these crises can be gleaned from the radiophonic origin of the speech. In its first paragraph, de Valera notes that before the present war began I was accustomed on St Patrick’s Day to speak to our kinsfolk in foreign lands, particularly those in the United States, whereas he now speaks to a primarily domestic audience.⁷ This note refers to the severely curtailed Irish shortwave service, whose operation during the war was compromised by electricity shortages and the inability to obtain more powerful transmitting equipment from abroad.⁸ Rather than understanding global communications as the harbinger of a McLuhanite global village, with its giddy faith in universal connectivity, the broadcast’s awareness of material impingements on transmission and reception is more akin to Raymond Williams’s diagnosis of a later phase of such communication networks:

The new technologies of cable and satellite, because they can be represented as socially new and therefore as creating a new political situation, are in their commonly foreseen forms essentially paranational. Existing societies will be urged, under the excuse of technical reasons, to relax or abolish virtually all their internal regulatory powers. If the price includes a few unproblematic legalities, or gestures to community interests, it will be paid.... The real costs, meanwhile, will be paid elsewhere. The social costs and consequences of the penetration of any society and its economy by the high-flying paranational system will be left to be paid or to be defaulted on by surviving national political entities.

Turned necessarily inward, the broadcast manifests in its material conditions of production and reception an early, if inchoate, instance of the coercive stratification identified by Williams. As a matter of transmission and reception, that is, the broadcast objectifies conditions of uneven access that were particularly acute during the war, but have since become naturalized as the structure of technological modernity itself.

A final word remains in order about the St. Patrick’s Day broadcast. Much of the subsequent criticism directed at its invocation of an ideal Ireland has centered on the depiction of comely maidens. The locution was already timeworn in 1943, but still testified in all its mustiness to the deeply conservative role assigned to women in the 1937 Constitution. While indefensible, the word comely has become critical shorthand for the repressive denial of women’s lived experience in de Valera’s Ireland, a monolithic tag used to convey the outline of a paleolithic social environment. In this, the specification of the many privations endured by Irish women is not well served by appealing to a heuristic device drawn from a single phrase in a single broadcast.¹⁰ In the present context, this idealizing compression is especially noteworthy, since the word comely seems to appear only in the printed text of the broadcast. In de Valera’s recording of the speech, he instead invokes happy maidens. This recording may not be a transcription recording of the live broadcast, but rather a version of the speech pressed to gramophone disc for release in the Irish diaspora.¹¹ Whether of the live broadcast or not, this recording nonetheless represents an important turn outward and, like Ireland’s Stand, suggests an alertness to modern channels of dissemination that runs counter to received images of cloistered otherworldliness. The monumentalization of the St. Patrick’s Day speech not only ignores this historical context, but also bases itself on the presumed singularity of what circulated in multiple forms. It is therefore precisely the discrepancy among the intermedial iterations of the speech that demonstrates the precariousness of Ireland’s position in the world. The agility of the state’s neutrality policy here finds its ground. In place, then, of the singular hallmark reliant on the misrecognition of an isolated paragraph for an auratic voice, the St. Patrick’s Day speech discloses a field of mediation. Produced by how people live as they do and the reasons why they live as they must, this field has as its unlikely keyword, at times rendered all but inaudible, the word happy.

With its anxieties and supplications couched only as the touchstones of an era gratefully superseded, de Valera’s homely vision may seem an odd place to begin a study of the problem of information. Yet this problem names the practical contradiction born of the scarcity of information coupled with its overabundance; and in this way, it opens on to a much more pervasive quandary at work in the circulation of the speech and in its subsequent reception. As such, the opening set piece anticipates the questions of transmission and reception that animate the chapters of this book, in the final pages of which the charged implications of the keyword happy will be explicitly addressed. With its center located in the global ideological contests of the Second World War, this book argues that Irish cultural production of the period cannot be understood outside the conflict’s mediating relations, but instead must be approached as having been actively constituted by their realization. The problem of information is therefore understood to be an international predicament that has specific manifestations in Irish contexts. At the same time, the book does not assume the congruence of cultural field and national or geographical territory. Already effected by emigration and partition, this dissociation was dramatically extended and retempered by the emergence of an international media economy increasingly premised on the national consequences of extra- and paranational forces. The rise of intercontinental shortwave broadcasting, the twinned refinements of propaganda technique and analysis, the growth of and competition among press services and news agencies, and the work of disparate networks of translation and dissemination all had a transformative impact not only on diplomacy and statecraft, but also on everyday practical senses of worldly engagement, cosmopolitan style, national allegiance, and communal security. While attention to these changing relations helps to historicize this moment, Ireland and the Problem of Information nevertheless considers as the stakes of its investigation the effort, in the words of Terry Eagleton, to grasp history as structured material struggle, in order that the political continuities of this earlier moment with our own information age become less mystified.¹² To that end, the purpose of this introduction will be to explain the methodological choices and critical decisions underwriting the book.

In its selection of primary materials, this book builds on the recent work of historians, archivists, and librarians to challenge the received and complementary narratives of Irish inwardness and Irish exceptionalism that for decades have formed the governing perceptions of Ireland in the war years. This hard-won access to a wide array of government files has provided a more complicated understanding not only of the rhetoric of Ireland’s stand, but of the political forces shaping its articulation. In advocating for progressive policies of inquiry and access, these researchers helped instigate what has been called the Irish freedom of information ‘revolution,’ which culminated in the passage of the National Archives Act (1986) and ultimately the Freedom of Information Act (1997).¹³ Since its founding in 1922, the Irish government had practiced a closed system of administration, sacrificing its citizens’ right to know to euphemistic matters of state and denying any relation between the two. In its slow reform, Irish policy was not unique, but echoed international standards of openness and restriction, as Dermot Keogh summarizes:

The Irish State, a bastion of classical bureaucratic conservatism for most of the twentieth century, could not have avoided being affected by such dramatic international changes [in policies of access to government documentation]. The Westminster model of closed government was applied in an extreme and unreformed way by the early generations of politicians and civil servants in the new state. The civil war divide made little difference to the philosophy of bureaucratic politics shared by Cumann na nGaedheal/Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. The British model, despite earlier intellectual interest during the War of Independence between 1919 and 1921 with the US and the Swiss, prevailed. Paradoxically, that was as much the case in departments that were inherited by the new state from the British period as it was for the newly established departments like External Affairs and Defence.¹⁴

While this administrative legacy was evidence of an incorporative transfer, it also reflected and confirmed a culture of secrecy that characterized many powerful institutions of national life, from the Catholic Church and national army to journalism and the medical professions.¹⁵ As Gerard O’Brien notes, this ethos was especially marked among the state’s founding political generation:

Much of the reluctance of such men and of their civil service advisers (some of them of the same age) to confront the need for archival reform related to their ambiguous attitude to their personal past. Evidence has emerged, though slowly, that the alternating bumptuousness and self-confident serenity of many veterans sometimes concealed a sense of guilt over horrors perpetrated or connived at by them, or simply because they had survived where other less fortunate comrades had perished.... Through all the warnings and prohibitions issued by politicians and officials to applicant-researchers, even to the end of the 1960s, there reverberated the central statement that the people of Ireland were not yet ready for too thorough a presentation of the past.¹⁶

Driven by the persistence of applicant-researchers, a younger generation of civil servants led the reform of closed archives, bringing Irish policy into line with North American, Australian, and (eventually) European access protocols. In doing so, this generation undermined a foundational relationship: Many of the civil servants who made that freedom of information revolution possible ‘subverted’ the system from within. Many of their predecessors would not have been best pleased. But the democratic institutions of the state are stronger for the ultimate ‘betrayal’ of the imported Westminster model of administration.¹⁷ Rather than return to some authentic Irish model, this subversion instead instituted new conditions of openness to Ireland’s historical record, one potent effect of which has indeed been a destabilization of the compatible narratives of Irish inwardness and Irish exceptionalism. As a national revolution, that is, this betrayal of the imported Westminster model of administration in favor of international alignment adduces a critical fact about the Irish habitus: that the specificity of Irish national self-determination takes form only in relation to international, worldly engagement.

There is no reason to regard international alignment as uniformly positive or as a relation founded in equality of power or transparency of motivation: a dense and growing record of evidence suggests otherwise. This point is acutely important to note in the midst of modernism’s transnational turn. For all of their startlingly expansive effects, many of the more recent conceptions of globalism or worldliness in modernist studies have a propensity to the paranational, in assuming or announcing the (beneficial) supersession of nation- or state-centered models by more fluid recognitions of global interpenetration. In its reliance on a notion of supersession, however, this recent turn risks embodying the paranational in Williams’s sense, as that represented as socially new and therefore as creating a new political situation. Greater access to Irish archives has indeed provided a more complex sense of Irish cultural production in its widest scope at midcentury, one realized perhaps most fully in a number of historiographical studies that have confronted long-standing perceptions. By graphically intensifying the contests between nationalism and internationalism that defined Ireland’s relationship to the world, the Second World War upended the modern Irish cultural field. As a result, struggles between nationalism and internationalism can now in much finer detail be understood in tandem with the forces structuring nationalism and internationalism as alternate modes of aligning Ireland with the world, as competing poles of worldly engagement. While they were often still communicated as opposed stances taken in regard to the qualities of Irish life, nationalism and internationalism were increasingly and knowingly mobilized on institutional footings that no longer recognized this opposition. If nationalism and internationalism could serve as ideological markers of Ireland’s place in the world order, it was because there were now specific institutional possibilities for their realization: as matters of strategic positioning, they were operationalized by Irish and non-Irish players alike. Nationalist poetry could function as the vehicle for cosmopolitan connection; lucid comprehension of global diplomacy could justify protective withdrawal; broadcast appeals to Ireland’s history could be made to sanction any postwar settlement: specific prerogatives such as these were foundational to the Irish field because they were necessitated by its oscillating practical conditions. These relations are absolutely political, but they skew—sometimes severely—any tidy or desired sense of political correspondence, in producing disquieting alliances articulated through unexpectedly common vocabulary.

Whereas the work of Irish writers has been paramount in conventional accounts of literary modernism, Ireland itself only rarely occupies a meaningful position in accounts of modernism’s historical trajectory. By 1940, Irish writing appeared at once to recede from its high modernist apogee and to fall back on a worn set of insular precepts: what had once been a fitting place to renounce or flee could not, after Yeats and Joyce, seem to offer even these hopes to its writers. In order to begin to redress this situation, Ireland and the Problem of Information examines the pivotal mediations through which social knowledge was produced in the mid-twentieth century. It considers how the meaning of cultural work assumed new weight amid wartime strategic imperatives, as the manipulation and redirection of literary expression came to reflect not only the immense totality of total war, but also literature’s increasingly explicit position among—rather than above or apart from—technological media of transmission and reception. In doing so, the book queries the privileged place still frequently accorded to isolated, individual authors, works, and voices in both modernist and Irish studies. For this reason, the motivated crossing of borders—between states and nations, cultural and social fields, institutions and formations, media and formats—serves as the governing current running through each chapter. Transcription, recording, collation, redaction, translation, rediffusion: this mediating practice took many forms. Even as the forces behind them were misrecognized (and often remain categorized) as distinctly non- or extraliterary forms of agency, they were transforming the contours and coordinates of the late modernist field into those recognized in today’s information age. These border crossings were not only motivated by specific and identifiable interests, but carried out under the aegis of particular agencies elided by subsequent reports of the volitionless unfolding and spread of global networks. Precisely because of its national focus, the book argues that these motivated border crossings significantly alter relations within and among national fields, but in no way obviate the necessity of these inter-national relations for understanding broader, more global circuits of transmission and reception. Far from happening somewhere between chance and fate whenever someone opens a book, these worldly mediations underscore the formative labor of classification in the literary, cultural, and political configurations of the late modernist period. This signal moment in the history of the Irish cultural field is indeed an early indicator of the antagonistic cooperation that has since come more generally to structure the cultural field of the information age.

Because Irish literary expression was believed to evince a singular national identity having both aesthetic value and political utility, modern Irish writing was forged and continually animated by controversies over literary autonomy versus political intervention, pedagogy versus propaganda, and the ideal virtues of art versus the practical effects of direct social engagement, as D. George Boyce notes: "It was these problems and possibilities that quickly destroyed any neat symmetry of political decline paralleled by cultural revival: for, just as the political crisis of 1891 [the Parnell split] gave an impetus to the literary movement, so the literary movement helped shape and release new political forces that threatened Yeats’ hope of an imaginative Irish literature tailored for a critical yet appreciative

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