The Great Community is a comprehensive reappraisal of cultural nationalism in Ireland. It traces its origins to the Young Ireland movement of the 1840s, and moves on to examine W. B. Yeats’s initial endorsement and subsequent rejection of the group’s ideals.
Cultural nationalism, David Dwan argues, was not a romantic retreat from politics, or simply an aesthetic expression of a desire for national independence: it was an ambitious attempt to recover an ancient ideal of citizenship for a modern democratic age. Drawing on political thought from Aristotle to Edmund Burke, The Great Community examines the attractions and difficulties of this enterprise.
From the start, the project relied on institutions such as the press. Dwan concludes with an analysis of the vexed relationship between newspapers and Irish nationalism. The rift between classical theories of ‘public opinion’ and its actual development in the press; the consequent disparagement and continued use of newspapers by nationalists; and the symbolic significance of famous media victims (such as Parnell and Synge) in Irish culture are the concluding motifs of this ground-breaking study.
The Great Community recovers the logic behind a largely lost form of politics; in doing so, it reveals the limitations of our own political imagination.
David Dwan is Associate Professor at Hertford College. Previously, he lectured at Queen Mary (University of London) and Queen’s University Belfast. He writes on modern literature and intellectual history.
…learned and replete, – Frank Shovlin, Irish Times
Field Day Files 5