The collected reports of a former Irish correspondent for British media depict a country that is notably less prosperous than it is today but one in which it seems there was always time to talk. Many things have changed since, and some, like rural depopulation, have not.
One of the main concerns of Brian O’Doherty’s collected essays is to raise questions about the retreat into subjectivity responsible for the cult of the personality in the art world. In an interview, O’Doherty confessed that he ‘never wished to make art from the degraded slums of my inner life’.
From 1820 to 1850, the sculptor John Hogan’s most productive period, he was largely based in Rome. Yet despite living abroad he was without question, and especially in terms of his subject matter and patrons – chiefly the Irish bourgeoisie and Catholic church – an Irish artist.
William Carleton at times conceived of his great narrative enterprise as a form of naive ethnography, asserting that his stories contained more “facts” about Ireland than any previously published work. His sources were multiple, his sea of story extending from refracted folktales, via Victorian melodrama, to the most commonplace clichés of commercial fiction and, indeed, improving tales. At its heart are the narratives and other oral forms of the pre-famine Irish countryside.
When the Shannon hydroelectric scheme was built in the 1920s it rapidly became a major tourist attraction, even a new national monument. But it was a monument that offered a future in contrast to the thousands of historic sites that sang of what had been lost in the past.
A study of Irish-language theatre in the mid-twentieth century shows that in spite of considerable difficulties associated with the sociological realities of language capacities in the country there was, in particular in the 1960s, a quite thriving Gaelic stage culture.
The widely held view of the Northern Protestant working class is that it is reactionary, prone to violence and possesses little that could be called culture other than marching bands. This is certainly the view that has been promoted by republicans. The reality is a little more nuanced.