Taking seriously Ireland’s euphemism for World War II, “the Emergency,” Anna Teekell’s Emergency Writing asks both what happens to literature written during a state of emergency and what it means for writing to be a response to an emergency.
Anchored in close textual analysis of works by Samuel Beckett, Elizabeth Bowen, Flann O’Brien, Louis MacNeice, Denis Devlin, and Patrick Kavanagh, and suppported by archival material and historical research, Emergency Writing shows how Irish late modernism was a response to the sociopolitical conditions of a newly independent Irish Free State and to a fully emerged modernism in literature and art.
What emerges in Irish writing in the wake of Independence, of the Gaelic Revival, of Yeats and of Joyce, is a body of work that invokes modernism as a set of discursive practices with which to counter the Free State’s political pieties. Emergency Writing provides a new approach to literary modernism and to the literature of conflict, considering the ethical dilemma of performing neutrality—emotionally, politically, and rhetorically—in a world at war.
“An engaged reading of the politics of language use in Ireland during World War II, Emergency Writing demonstrates how the war years mark a particular moment of emergence in post-independence Irish writing, as the legacy of literary modernism comes to empower diverse stylistic challenges to official narratives of Irish identity.” –Damien Keane, author of Ireland and the Problem of Information
"This incisive study brilliantly proves that Irish neutrality during the Second World War was anything but apolitical. Illuminatingly, Anna Teekell shows how the war writings of Patrick Kavanagh, Elizabeth Bowen, Denis Devlin, Louis MacNeice, Samuel Beckett and Flann O’Brien are coded and grapple in differing ways with the ambiguities of neutrality. Teekell’s book is timely and provocative given her argument that neutrality was never a license for disengagement and that it still plays a key but thorny role in Ireland’s positioning of itself in European and international affairs. –Anne Fogarty, University College Dublin