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The Irish Classical SelfPoets and Poor Scholars in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries$
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Laurie O’Higgins

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198767107

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: April 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198767107.001.0001

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(p.199) Conclusion
The Irish Classical Self

Laurie O’Higgins

Oxford University Press

Many eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Irish people believed Ireland’s relationship to the classical world was distinctive, sympathetic, and ongoing. The complex, intimate, and contentious relationship between Irish and English fostered linguistic self-consciousness that permeated many sectors of society. Irish poetry embodied and animated this self-consciousness, and told of Ireland’s cultural and historical connections with the biblical and classical world. The classical tradition also modeled the triumph of ordered memory over time, and inspired hope in those who had experienced, and who continued to remember, violent cultural disruption. Amid and often alongside steep social divides, sectarian hostilities, and distrust, people also sustained a sense of responsibility to, and ownership of, rich, multilingual learning as birthright and heritage. Where many other European societies maintained classical learning as an exclusive emblem of gentlemanly status, in Ireland it was seen as part of a broader cultural mission which reached into the lower ranks of society.

Keywords:   linguistic self-consciousness, classical tradition, multilingual learning, lower ranks of society, Irish poetry

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