Irish Literature, Neutrality, and the Second World War
Imprint: Northwestern University Press
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 supported 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.
Introduction: Emergency Writing
1. The Rhetoric of Irish Neutrality
2. Pilgrimage as Poetic Form: Kavanagh and Devlin at Lough Derg
3. The Enemy Within: Louis MacNeice’s War Poetry
4. Careful Talk: Elizabeth Bowen and Language at War
5. Unreadable Books, Unspeakable Worlds: Beckett and O’Brien in Purgatory
Epilogue: The Emergency’s Improbable Frequency
“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
"Emergency Writing is an ambitious, wide-ranging, and highly readable account of how mid-century Irish literature responded to wartime neutrality. Surveying the major Irish poetry and fiction of the Second World War, from Patrick Kavanagh to Elizabeth Bowen, Anna Teekell describes a late modernism of ambiguity and anxiety, paradox and purgatorial suspension. This is a fresh and eloquent contribution to the field of modernist studies, and a valuable expansion of our understanding of what it means to write about war." –Marina MacKay, author of Modernism and World War II
"Elegant, wry, and insightful, Emergency Writing returns to a crucial moment in the history of Ireland. In this urgent and discerning account of neutrality as a political practice, Teekell demonstrates how nascent statehood is interlaced with questions of diplomacy, independence, and, above all, culture." –Allan Hepburn, Allan Hepburn, James McGill Professor of Twentieth-Century Literature, McGill University
"What stands Teekell apart from many critics is her delight in language. Her book is informed by broader cultural and historical studies, but at its heart lies vigorous close readings . . . This work is a welcome addition to the research on post-independence Irish literature and more specifically the influence of the war
on Irish writers and the development of late modernism. In this sense, it should provoke further reflections and study of this still painfully under-investigated period of Irish literary history." —Brad Kent, Canadian Journal of Irish Studies