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Ireland and the British Empire$
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Kevin Kenny

Print publication date: 2005

Print ISBN-13: 9780199251841

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199251841.001.0001

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Fiction and Empire: The Irish Novel

Fiction and Empire: The Irish Novel

(p.154) 6 Fiction and Empire: The Irish Novel
Ireland and the British Empire

Vera Kreilkamp

Oxford University Press

This chapter considers the relationship between Irish fiction and Empire under the Union and in its aftermath. In Ireland's first major novel, Castle Rackrent (1800), Maria Edgeworth memorably anticipated a successful Union with Britain; thereafter, a rapid succession of works obsessively circled around the Act of Union's failure to resolve the matter of Ireland's ambiguous colonial status. The novels appear as repositories of British colonial assumptions and expressions of anti-British sentiment. As the straitened conditions of nineteenth and early twentieth-century artists and writers working in an economically and politically depressed former capital increased movement outward, the island's historic ties, not only with London, but also with a continental Catholicism, established France and Italy as fictional settings providing alternative perspectives on British imperialism. Such geographically expansive settings for Empire discourse suggest, once again, how Irish fiction significantly complicates the binary structures of a postcolonial emphasis on metropolitan centre and periphery.

Keywords:   Irish fiction, Empire, Castle Rackrent, Maria Edgeworth, Act of Union, Catholicism, Empire discourse

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