Thursday, September 20, 2012

Brian Ó Broin. Review of Mac Cóil, Liam, An Chláirseach Agus an Choróin. H-Albion, H-Net Reviews. September, 2012.

Citation: Brian Ó Broin. Review of Mac C óil, Liam, An Chláirseach agus an Choróin. H-Albion, H-Net
Reviews. September, 2012.

While this book ostensibly analyzes the seven symphonies of the Anglo-Irish composer Charles Villiers Stanford (1852-1924), written between 1876 and 1911 as Ireland lurched towards Home Rule and civil war, it is much more a work of historiography, trenchantly questioning the way in which Irish history continues to be viewed as a subset of British history.

As he did in his brilliant novel Fontenoy, Mac Cóil is writing an alternative history of the Gael, taking that right away from the victor-colonialist. He is putting the Gael alongside Anglophone culture and removing him as a subset of that culture (this has yet to happen in America, where Irish studies is almost always  a subset of British studies). Because he knows that history is fiction, and that it is used as a political tool, he very consciously (and very rightly) proposes that the Gael rewrite history. As he says, most profoundly, his feet firmly planted on the floor of Club Ráth Chairn, his local community center, gineann muid ár sinsear [agus] ní bhíonn duine gan aird i measc a phobail féin (we beget our ancestors, and nobody is overlooked in his own community) (324). It is a thought-provoking first step towards a reevaluation of Ireland on its own terms, not those of anglophone colonialists or outsiders.

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