Now in my 3rd year of New Media and English, it’s hard to grasp how the time has slipped away so suddenly. My final year closing in, many of the modules I’m now doing reflect that and the workload has, naturally, increased.
One such module is Irish Literature. Each semester I’ve chosen this module consciously so as to have an adept understanding and study of English literature in Ireland. This has benefited me too in the fact that much of the coursework reflects back on previous works and literary movements covered in past modules.
Last year was the centenary of the 1916 Rising, something I would take great pride and interest in. As this module covers Irish literature from 1930 to 1990, much of the aftermath of the rebellion and the Irish civil war is discussed. It’s fascinating to see how real life events, many of which were experienced first hand by the authors, inspired incredible works of fiction.
Recently, I just finished a close reading assignment on the last September by Elizabeth Bowen. The text explored the extinction of the “Big House” lifestyle that was enjoyed by the Anglo-Irish Aristocracy for centuries up until the turning of the Irish War of Independence in 1919. In the novel, Bowen explores the relationship between the native Irish, the English Crown and the Anglo-Irish juxtaposition between the two, somewhat precariously at that.
Personally what I found the Anglo-Irish perspective most interesting, as much of the previously works we studied was from a native one. The sheer ignorance perpetuated by many Anglo families in Ireland to the rising tensions was startling. An “if we ignore it, it won’t affect us” attitude, which Bowen seems to put to fear more than anything.
The house and its grand estate is described as like an island in the text, cut away from the rest of Ireland. Indeed, while grand, the lifestyle they enjoy seems rather solitary and lonesome.
I found Bowen to be fair in her descriptions to be fair of both sides of the conflict. However, I was shocked to learn that the Irish revolt came as a shock to the Anglo characters, when it was a strikingly clear course of action for the native Irish in the text. This in itself was thought-provoking and only further highlighted the disengagement between the lives of the characters in the text.
Though a work of fiction, I feel it excellently portrayed not just the mood of the time, but the sentiments, humanising the conflict full circle.
Modules like this are why I chose to do my degree in New Media and English and allow me to not only improve my writing and understanding of literature, but of my country and its history too.