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Synge and Edwardian Ireland$
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Brian Cliff and Nicholas Grene

Print publication date: 2011

Print ISBN-13: 9780199609888

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2012

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199609888.001.0001

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Synge and Modernity in The Aran Islands

Synge and Modernity in The Aran Islands

Chapter:
(p.120) (p.121) 8 Synge and Modernity in The Aran Islands
Source:
Synge and Edwardian Ireland
Author(s):

David Fitzpatrick

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199609888.003.0009

Synge combines incisive observation and human sympathy with sleight of hand in The Aran Islands. When narrating his introduction to the supposedly primitive West of Ireland (1898–1901), he adopts multiple perspectives echoing those of earlier visitors. Synge’s eclectic approach creates inconsistencies and tensions, such as alternately deploring the consequences of poverty and of modernisation. The problem is mitigated, but not resolved, by largely ignoring the social and political implications of resisting ‘progress’. Though artistically satisfying, The Aran Islands is subtly deceptive, exaggerating the persistence of cultural and linguistic traditions and the separation of islanders from mainland practices, and drastically understating the impact of modernisation. This essay explores some of the sources, both public and familial, from which Synge may have derived his conflicting attitudes towards poverty and modernisation. It also offers novel evidence of the surprising extent to which the Aran Islands had already lost their cultural insularity.

Keywords:   Islands, Modernisation, Poverty, Primitivity, Travel Narratives, Anglicisation, Irish Language

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