The introduction constructs an unfamiliar portrait of MacNeice as a poet who was knowledgeable and enthusiastic about the work of his Irish literary contemporaries. It outlines how this previously disregarded side to the writer challenges extant accounts of his relationship with Irish literature, which have mostly focused on his posthumous influence on more recent Northern Irish poets. The introduction shows that the portrayal of MacNeice as a rehabilitated precursor is in danger of becoming an unanalysed critical truism that occludes a more complete understanding of his relationship to Irish literature. But it also suggests that a lack of critical consideration of the poet’s relationship to the work of his Irish contemporaries points to more fundamental limitations in most accounts of Irish literary history in the middle of the twentieth century.
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