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Irish Literature and Language (Irish Studies)

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Historical Surveys

A multi-page research guide to Irish literature resources in the Boston College libraries

Histories/General Surveys of Irish Literature

A select list of works on the literary history of Ireland.

Cleary, Joseph and Claire Connolly. The Cambridge Companion to Modern Irish Culture. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2005. (O’Neill Library: DA959.1.C35 2005, Burns Library DA959.1.C35 2005 REF )  Essays on Irish culture in a historical context, exploring cultural and theoretical debates.

Deane, Seamus. A Short History of Irish Literature. London: Hutchinson, 1986. (O'Neill Library: PB1306.D424x 1986) Aims "to show how literature has been inescapably allied with historical interpretation and with political allegiance."  Emphasizes literature in English, and the "revivals and collapses" of a body of literature "centred upon an idea of Ireland."

Dunn, Douglas. Two Decades of Irish Writing: A Critical Survey. Cheshire: Carcanet Press, 1975. (O'Neill Library: PB1306.D8) Essays on writers and genres of modern poetry and fiction.

Hyde, Douglas. A Literary History of Ireland from the Earliest Times to the Present Day. London: Barnes & Noble, 1967. (O'Neill Library: PB1306.H8 1967; Burns Library: PB1306.H8 1967 IRISH) Based on literature in Irish.  Forty-four chapters range from a discussion of the reliabillity of sources to Irish as a spoken language.

Hogan, Robert. Dictionary of Irish Literature. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1996. (O'Neill Library Reference: PR8706.D5 1996; Burns Library: PR8706.D5 1996 REF) Dictionary format, in two volumes.

Kelleher, Margaret and Philip O’Leary. The Cambridge History of Irish Literature. New York : Cambridge University Press, 2006. (O’Neill Library: PB1306 .C36 2006) The survey of Irish literature in this two-volume set begins in the sixth century, with essays on literature in Irish and English and their interrelationships. Volume 1 goes to 1890, and volume 2 covers 1890-2000. The detailed chronology offers scholars the ability to verify information on specific authors and titles.

Kiberd, Declan. Inventing Ireland. London: Jonathan Cape, 1995. (O'Neill Library: PR8753.K53x 1995) Examines the links between high art and popular culture in the decades surrounding independence. 

McMahon, Sean and Jo O'Donaghue. Mercier Companion to Irish Literature. Cork: Mercier Press, 1967-1971. (O'Neill Library: Reference PR8706.M47 1998; Burns Library: PR8706.M38 1998 IRISH) Shorter and more portable than Welch's, Boylan's or Hogan's dictionaries of Irish literature.  Includes writers and organizations, and is cross-referenced.

O'Connor, Frank. The Backward Look: a Survey of Irish Literature. London: MacMillan, 1967. (O'Neill Library: PB1306.O3 1967a) Contains chapters on the characteristics of early Irish literature and major literary milestones.

O'Leary, Philip. The Prose Literature of the Gaelic Revival, 1881- 1921. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 1994. (O'Neill Library: PB1336 .O43 1994) Examines the genesis and politicization of the late-nineteenth century Gaelic Literary Revival, which he dates from the 1881 publication of An Gaodhal to the 1916 Easter Rising.

O'Leary, Philip. Gaelic Prose in the Irish Free State, 1922-1939. Dublin: University College Dublin Press, 2004. (O'Neill Library: PB1336 .O428 2004b; Burns Library: PB1336 .O428 2004b IRISH).  Addresses topics such as: debates within the Gaelic literary movement in the new state; the Gaelic author and the heroic tradition; relationships between Gaelic and English language literature; and Gaelic drama.

Ryan, Desmond. The Sword of Light: From the Four Masters to Douglas Hyde, 1636-1938. Folcroft, Penn.: Folcroft Library Editions, 1974. (O'Neill Library: DA938.R9 1974) Ryan examines the literary revival and re-emergence of Irish, spanning from the 1636 completion of The Annals of the Kingdom of Ireland from the Flood until the Death of Hugh O'Neill through Hyde's death in the middle of the twentieth century.

Welch, Robert, ed. The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature. New York: Clarendon, 1996. (O'Neill Library: Reference PR8706.O88 1996; Burns Library: PR8706 .O88 1996 REF) Abridged version: The Concise Oxford companion to Irish literature (2000). In dictionary format. Covers sixteen centuries of Irish literature, including essays on organizations, authors, and genres.  Provides historical context to pieces of literature, bibliographies after most entries, maps, and chronologies.