We know from literary histories that there was a movement called the Irish Literary Renaissance, and from political histories that there was a nationalist movement that, militarily, began in Dublin with the Insurrection of Easter Week, 1916. What these two movements have to do with each other is the subject of this book.
In search of the role of imagination in this history, William Irwin Thompson defines three narrative strands. “The Movement Toward the Event” describes the seemingly unpolitical efforts of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Irish archaeologists and historians to recapture the Gaelic past that had been eradicated by the catastrophes of war in seventeenth-century Ireland. In recovering this past, historians ignited the imaginations of twentieth-century Irish writers and revolutionaries alike. “The Poets in the Event” concentrates on the imaginative worlds of the three executed poet revolutionaries of 1916Padraic Pearse, Thomas MacDonagh, and Joseph Plunkettattempting to show how they lived their lives as if in a work of art, and how, from the romantic gesture of their deaths, they were able to force history momentarily into the shape of art. “Three Images of the Event” examines the way in which the insurrection survived in the minds of the three Irish writers most intimately involved with that moment of history: William Butler Yeats, A.E. (George Russell), and Sean O’Casey.
In juxtaposing tragic, mystic, and naturalistic images of a single event within the context of the history of the 1916 uprising, Thompson convincingly demonstrates the relationship between the Irish artistic imagination and Irish historical reality.
Praise for The Imagination of an Insurrection:
“A fine example of imagination working on imagination: instance and theory, scholarship and history, criticism and poetry are woven in a single spell. Mr. Thompson spells quite beautifully. I hope everyone will read him.”William Gass
About The Imagination of an Insurrection:
“I wanted to put anthropology, history, and literary criticism together in a new form of cultural history. The book was meant to be a pilot study of the phenomenology of an ideological movement that was inseparably a nativistic movement, a political revolution, and a literary renaissance.”from the author’s preface
About the Author
William Irwin Thompson received his Ph.D. from Cornell University in 1966, and taught humanities at M.I.T. and at York University in Toronto. He founded the Lindisfarne Association in 1972, and left academia soon thereafter. Among his many books are At the Edge of History, The Time Falling Bodies Take to Light, and The American Replacement of Nature.