Sean Lucy, A Stronger, Sadder Voice in Crane Bag, 1, 2 (1977), rep. Crane Bag Book (1982), pp.148-50, begins by referring to previous commentary on Gradual Wars by himself in 1972, and comments on aestheticism of first collection, comparing Rumours, the new collection: the voice … is recognisably that of the same poet but it is stronger and more human. The humanity seems to be deliberately sought … distances are now threats as they divide him from his father and his own son. (op. cit., 148).
Edna Longley , Poetry and Politics in Northern Ireland, in The Crane Bag, 9, 1 (1985), pp.26-40; rep. as Do., in Poetry in the Wars (Bloodaxe 1986), pp.185-210, quotes Deane, The Longing for Modernity [editorial], in Threshold (Winter 1982): An equally polemical account of modernism and its triumph in the century of almost unbroken disasters […] global war, threat of holocaust, concentration camps, wastelands, alienation, cancer, bureaucracy, mock-religious cults, crime waves, propaganda, the creation of plenty by the starvation of millions - and so on. Rationality, it apart, needs no encouragement to compete with atavism in the production of misery. (Ibid., p.4.). Longley remarks: Polemical indeed! Did rationality or atavism, in its nationalist guise, set up the concentration camps? Rationalised atavism, perhaps. Deanes own atavised rationalism betrays more clearly than usual the strains of reconciling Derry with Derrida. (p.31.)
Edna Longley , The Living Stream: Literature and Revisionism in Ireland, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne: Bloodaxe 1994, Introduction: Revising Irish Literature, pp.10-68, espec. Field Day and the Canon, pp.22-44: Deanes criticism frequently travels in a loop whereby he first seeks to disprove such a thing as an Irish national character or an Irish fate or an Irish destiny, but then reverts to Nationalist language: it is indeed true that we have in this island, over a very long time, produced a literature or a form of writing which is unique to us [her italics]. Deanes other loop, or contrary gyre, is to resist the promiscuous embrace of pluralism, even while scorning words like tradition, identity .. and their sticky swarm of relatives. Destiny and promiscuity seem to be the horns of binary dilemma: the former make you (or Ireland a character in somebody elses fiction; the latter may deprive you of any character at all. (p.25.) Further, [H]ere Deane nails his colours, his authority as General Editor, and Irish writing to the Fianna Fáil mast - or, at least, to its Republican grain [but] does not documents Lemasss reforms of the late 1950s, which, in steering the Republic away from economic protectionism, betokened the end of cultural protectionism too, and laid the fuse for controversies - abort, divorce - now blazing in the political foreground. (p.33.) Common to Friels drama and the critical writings of Seamus Deane is a powerful sense of Palestinian dispossession. [ ]. When speaking of Irelands literary and political traditions, Deane repeatedly uses the terms crisis and discontinuity. These conditions he generalises to cover the total past and this total island now. But his perceptions cannot be divorced from the recent history of Derry with its lost hinterland. (The other side of this coinage is the now-displaced Derry Protestant.) The same affiliation may show itself in Deanes intellectual resistance to the mystique of Irishness concocted by Yeats on the one hand, Corkery on the other. Perhaps his otherwise rather extreme (and contradictory) desire for new writing, new politics, unblemished by Irishness, but securely Irish (Heroic Styles ) reflects, and aspires to redress, the exclusion of Northern Nationalists from the self-images and cultural definitions that became operational in the new state. Certainly, critics associated with Field Day approach the Irish Literary Revival both as a colonial manifestation and as a present hegemony, not a receding phase in literary history. They question the Revivals cultural power as revisionists question the political power of 1916. Today, the Cork historian and senator John A. Murphy has a knack of annoying Northern Nationalists.
Edna Longley , Autobiography as History, review of Reading in the Dark in Fortnight Review (Nov. 1996), p.34 [fullpage]; reflects on the common conflation of personal history with a narrative of Ireland in Irish autobiographers; cites phrases of this tendency, radical privation; the sense of a missing feature or energy this missing agency [for which] nothing can compensate; a utopia inverted and perverted; the local drags, in its retarding fashion, on the aspiration to transcend it; comments that despite fine passages of close observation, Deane often allow melodrama and a kind of Celtic melancholia to interbreed; this book powerfully represents the condition - and conditioning - of Catholic Derry during the years that incubated the Troubles…. Deanes Derry world is as introverted and fatalistic as MacLavertys Belfast. And it is sometimes doubtful whether the author establishes a horizon beyond the narrators predicament - a horizon of geography or history or philosophy or expectation. Even the humour remains grim…. His missing feature or energy may ultimately have less to do with Derry or Ireland than with the neurosis that nourishes all creative spirits; ends by summoning comparison with fellow-pupil at St. Columbs, Seamus Heaney, considering that in Deane the local drags while the latter overstresses the aspiration to transcend it.
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W. J. McCormack, Terence Brown and the Historians, in The Battle of the Books: Two Decades of Irish Cultural Debate (Dublin: Lilliput 1986), pp.40-47, quoting from Deanes review of Oliver MacDonagh, States of Mind (1983), in Irish Literary Supplement (Spring 1986): I find myself asking if MacDonagh is saying, this is how the facts have been (mis)represented and this is what the case really was and here is the reason for the kinds of (mis)representation we have - that being, primarily the colonial mentality which is itself the product of the Anglo-Irish relationship? Can the report of any event be coincident with the event itself? Or is there an event itself? Historians rightly fear such nominalism; if accepted, it would make them mere writers, not scientists. (p.39). McCormack comments, Not surprisingly, Deane concludes by hailing MacDonagh  the historian as artist who has given us all a lesson in how to read. Deanes apparent willingness to step aside and admire the passing display of history […] comes as an abrupt acceleration of a tacit retreat from earlier ambitions. Like some suddenly cautious Whig of old, he finds in States of Mind the occasion to declare that somewhere along the line, interpretation has to run up against the ultimate; the labyrinth always has a centre, as well as a way in which is also a way out (ibid.). This linguistic crane-baggage is untypically impenetrable in Deane, and the review is brief as - lamentably - all of Deanes writings are. Yet it is evident of the potent exchanges between the self-correcting work of the historians and the self-restricting inquiries of the critics. (pp.44-45); see further remarks in having a Field Day, especially regarding Deanes first pamphlet, where a denunciation of civilised law as self-authorising force leaves itself open to the interpretation that it virtually sanctions the bomber outside the law. (This is one of the vulnerably ambiguous positions from which Deanes more recent wrings may be regarded as a defensive regrouping.) (ibid. p.56).
Damian Smyth, Totalising Imperative, Fortnight 309, Sept. 1992 The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, published last year, appears as the most arrogant and challenging example of such a neo-Romantics totalising vision to be produced in Europe. There is a fundamental absurdity to the project: in spite of the language of discontinuity and rupture displayed as fashion accessories in the critical framing, there seems to be something primordially continuous about Ireland and being Irish over a 1500-year period. (Quoted in Stephanie Bachorz, Postcolonial Theory and Ireland: Revising Postcolonialism, Aaron Kelly & Alan Gillis, eds., Critical Ireland: New Essays in Literature and Culture, Four Courts Press 2001, p.9.)
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R. F. Foster, review of Seamus Deane, Strange Country: Modernity and Nationhood in Irish Writing since 1790, in The Times (24 April 1997): Seamus Deanes novel Reading in the Dark, luminous, elliptical, with an ingeniously episodic narrative introduced him to a wide readership; his new book, based on his 1996 Clarendon lectures at Oxford, epitomises the kind of work by which he was previously known. Probably the most influential Irish literary critic of his generation, he has brought a ferociously engaged attention to bear on Irish literary history: besides a series of literary-historical studies, there is the massive The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, produced under his editorship and including some of his most incisive grapplings yet with Irish literature and what makes it or makes it up. Strange Country might be seen as a continuation of this dialogue, and a commentary on the state of Irish literary-historical criticism./The subject of Irish literature in English from the late 18th century might be made for Deanes kind of intelligence tightly knotted, dense, ingenious. It requires facing up to a tangled inheritance, where narrative inventiveness is employed to negotiate colonial and linguistic intersections and certain mannerisms and assumptions recur again and again, often in concealed forms. The themes which preoccupy Strange Country include unreality, altereity, stasis, invention and reinvention; the mechanisms include exaggeration, typification and resolution by means of collusive cliché. Others have visited this territory before (notably Declan Kiberd, David Lloyd, W. J. McCormack); Deanes contribution is to choose unexpected exemplars and to weave his themes back and forth across the four long chapters. / He begins with Edmund Burke (on whom he has always written brilliantly), interpreting his Reflections as part of the new genre of travel writing; this constructs the image of Ireland as a Strange Country at war with modernity and in need of the imposed interpretations of civil literature; the theme is pursued through the idea of national character as epitomised in the work of certain Irish writers (Maria Edgeworth) and by the lives of others (the poète maudit James Clarence Mangan). The translations of James Hardiman in Irish Minstrelsy are similarly employed, as is the fiction of Bram Stoker (a writer who, like Elizabeth Bowen, has been seen more and more clearly as writing in or against an Irish tradition). Irish Gothic is broadened out from the beleaguered Protestant Big House into a distinctively Irish-Catholic tradition, though Mangans themes as described here (doom, criminality, dream-sequences, father-figures, isolating illness, Promethean ambitions and the refusal of conventional religious consolation) would equally apply to Mary Shelley or William Beckford. [Cont.]
Elizabeth Doyle, True Class Darkly, feature-essay, with photo-port., In Magill (Jan. 1998, p.40), comparing Deane with Solzhenitsyn and more generally with the authors of samizdat literature; Deane releases the community from speechlessness and offers the catharsis of articulation; claims that the writer and the person are the same, and that the membrane that usually exists between the writing and the audience is ruptured and that we are compelled to share his experiences; cites his continued preoccupation with Burke and the French Revolution as well as Mitchels idea of famine as genocide; Deane feels that the famine transformed Ireland into a ghost country; those in power write the histories ; notes absence of women from Field Day, otherwise another attempt to empower people and give them a voice of their own - a male voice; quotes Anthony Roche, Field Day was finding a way to imagine yourself, incorporating the principle of difference; give notice of a forthcoming Field Day documentary of 1798 scripted by Deane and involving Luke Gibbons, Stephen Rea and Kevin Whelan; cites Geraldine Meaney as one of the panel of seven women working on the fourth (womens) volume; Deane a republican in the Enlightenment sense; claims that in availing as he did of the 1947 Education Act, Deane has chosen the heroic root [?route], which is not to say that he hasnt suffered; the power of his poems means that they become embossed like Braille on our minds; claims (above) that Joyce made Hiberno-English possible, and that (below) Deane challenges the retarded caricatures and misrepresentations of our lives and language; we have moved from deformed speech to Hiberno-English, which his poetry shows is an embroidered language, surpassing standard English in its sophistication, elegance, and ability to embrace new concepts.
Carol Rumens, Reading Deane, interview with Seamus Deane in Fortnight (July-Aug. 1997), pp.28-29: conscious of A Portrait of the Artist there in the canon certainly anxious to steer away from that shadow My view of the novel - which I find not shared by many people - is that its about a young child who never earns a name. He never achieves sufficient identity […] to deserve the name or the sense of self hes looking for in relation to his parents; I think of the novel as having two kinds of narrative. One is the narrative the boy is demanding all the time: what really happened, what are the facts? Thats why so many moments from his education are involved. Its the kind of narrative that is natural to a generation that, because of education, had become much more, or somewhat more, secular, but, because of the formality of that education, was liable to think facts are coincident with truth. Then, on the other hand, there was the previous generation, uneducated, who derived their stories from folklore, from legend, and these stories are very subtly coded ways of dealing with trauma and difficulty. He doesnt recognise at first how these stories actually deal with the very thing that he was trying to pursue (p.29); the master story is his search for one [a story]; […] one of my brothers feels very strongly that the mother is displaced, shouldered out, in effect, by the father, but, in a way, what I was trying to say of the mother figure is that she is the one, ultimately, who takes the whole burden of knowledge upon herself; I dont think of the critical and creative as opposites. One way of coming into self-possession, of overcoming any kind of oppression, colonial or otherwise, is to take charge of interpretation yourself, not to allow yourself to be interpreted by others. This novel is a kind of parable of that attempt (and a painfully abortive attempt) on the part of a young kid. And thats what I do in my other work too (and that might be painfully abortive!) Nevertheless, I think of the effort as one of the few ways available to me - maybe the only way available to me - of knowing, of possessing experience. Its one of the ways of overcoming the sense of being dispossessed - to come into possession through interpretation, through understanding and so I think of everything Ive written including the novel, and the poems, and the scholarly-critical stuff, and the editing and everything else, as participating in that action. Im not claiming theres some wonderful underlying coherence between them all, but theyre similar acts. So I dont think of critical or scholarly action as somehow radically different from the creative act. It would be foolish to deny there are differences - of course there are - but humanly the sense of bringing something into possession of which youve lost possession, or which has been taken from you in some way (not always by someone else, sometimes by yourself) - thats what writing is really about. Not a therapy, not an act of redemption but an act of possession, an act of understanding. And I think the finest form of understanding is the kind that brings something into the sort of focus that possession means, the kind of clarity with which you say Oh, that! That I recognise or that I re-recognise or that I know. And even when you say I know, there are two words there, not just the verb. The verb textually gives definition to the pronoun as well. The I gets some kind of back-formation from the verb. (p.30; End.)
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Prionsias Ó Drisceoil, Frustrations of a Free State, review of Strange Country, in Irish Times, 31 May 1997: quotes Deanes argument that Burkes French Revolution is a foundational text that allows or had allowed for a reading of a national literature in such a manner that even chronologically prior texts can be annexed by it into a narrative …; Burkes anti-theoretical valorisation of tradition in the face of the Revolution in France led to universal human and family feelings being constructed as synonymous with the British national character. But this … did not embrace Ireland; Deane holds that Burkes detestation of the Irish Parliament stemmed from its denial of full citizenship to the Catholics, there treating a traditional society in such a way as to threaten the endurance and validity of the idea of civil society that Britain, more than any other European country, exemplified; further quotes, soil is what land becomes when it is constructed as a natal source; the Irish national project is a characterisation of land and language as moving from possession to dispossession [to] repossession; notions of national character sought to express these meanings and … became, in fact, the Celt, an anachronistic anti-modernism adhering to the Burkean nation rather than to moderate and the state; as land faded from the forefront of politics both it and speech came to form an intermesh of obscurities - Celtic and Gothic twilights, folklore and occultism - which bestowed mysteriousness on soil ad speech and emphasised Irish exceptionalism as opposed to British modernity; reviewer finds that OFaolains 1944 essay The Gaelic Cult is refracted in line with Deanes general argument and away from OFaolains stated case; Deane calls OFaolain one of those revisionists who refuse to countenance the idea that a community might actually surrender economic well-being for something less boring … (Deane); Deane accuses the revisionists of endorsing the state monopoly on violence and vindicated the colonialism from which their rhetoric derives; reviewer considers that a frustration at the Republics embrace of its economic interests while the Northern Catholics chose something less boring is manifest.
Taura Napier, The Mosaic I: Mary Colum and Modern Irish Autobiography, in Irish University Review, 28, 1 (Spring/Summer 1998), pp.37-55, quoting: Events such as the Easter Rising, the Civil War, the Northern crisis, are read […] as bright moments of liberation that have within them the darker moments of oppression, radical revelations of the ceaseless discovery and loss of identity and freedom, which is one of the obsessive marks of cultures that have been compelled to inquire into the legitimacy of their own existence by the presence of another culture that is forever foreign and forever intimate. (Introduction to Autobiography and Memoirs, 1890-1988 [sect.], In The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing, 1991, Vol. 3, p.380; Napier, p.43); Napier glosses this: The Other as a narrative device has also been discussed by Seamus Deane, who identifies the Other as a force rather than person, and postulates that Irish autobiographers overcome this force to achieve self-expression. But when he defines the Other/force as embodied in a person, Deane does not indicate an individual personality so much as an extension of the force that the (male) Irish autobiographer must fight against and surmount, so that he emerges triumphant and inviolate with his self-expression intact. The situation of otherness arises, according to Deane, not from the Irish autobiographers dispossession within his own culture, but from the imposition of an outside, colonial force, and further comments, This is not the case with Irishwomen. (ibid.)
Michael McAteer discusses Seamus Deanes chapter-essay Boredom and Apocalypse in Strange Country (1997; pb. 1998) in Yeats[s] Endgame : Postcolonialism and Modernism, in Aaron Kelly & Alan Gillis, eds., Critical Ireland: New Essays in Literature and Culture (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2001), pp.160-65: Deane hypothesises that Irish history was too disturbed up to and into the nineteenth century to allow for a Whig interpretation (scientific, rationalist, teleological) of history, resulting in the exoticisation of the country as strange in English writing after the famine, an exoticisation taken up by Irish nationalism and made into a virtue, a basis for separation rather than integration. As one consequence of this, he sights the tourist perspective on Ireland as unreal, an imaginative fantasy. For Deane, this is productive of boredom, in that the Irish themselves become endlessely entrapped between representing [Ireland] as a quaint other to imperial normality, or as a radical otherness for which no canonical system of representation is sufficient (Strange Country, p.156). But boredom also carries the more mundane sense for Deane, of the repetitive nature of experience systematised and rationalised through modern bureaucracy. For Deane, Yeats is apocalyptic, the dialectical antithesis of boredom - if Yeats is boring, it is in terms of endless entrapment in the eccentric circularity of occultism. […] This is all very well, though it is significant here that the best Irish writer on boredom (some might claim the most boring Irish writer) Samuel Beckett, commands only one paragraph in Deanes essay […] Leaving this aside, something happens in Deanes essay when he gets on to historical revisionism - the dialectics get dumped. For Deane, because revisionism is updated Whig interpretation, 1916 can never really be understood. As apocalypse, it remains recalcitrant to the boredom of administrative rationality. However, to valorise it as such, to embrace its counter-modernising impulse, is not simply to be seduced by its aura of authenticity, of Dionysian spontaneity breaking through the mask of Apollo. It is to efface its structural interdependence with the systematic rationalisation of identity it defines itself against. Such a move is Heideggerian and a question for postcolonialism is why Deane makes it at the end of a strongly dialectical essay. Might it be another Endgame ?
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Conor McCarthy, Modernisation: Crisis and Culture in Ireland 1969-1992 (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2000), Introduction, quotes Deane: Empiricists make good liberals; that is to say, all good liberals are empiricists, but not all empiricists are good liberals (Deane, Wherever Green is Read, in Ciaran Brady, ed., Interpreting Irish History, IAP 1994, p.238), and remarks: Deane reckons that the goal of liberalism in the Republic is to improve the existing economic-political system to the point that individuals would no longer feel the need for recourse to such troubling and supposedly atavistic ideologies as nationalism or Roman Catholicism. When Deane tells us that the buzz-word for Irish liberalism is pluralism, and that its ideal is to organise the society of the Republic to the point that ideologies are replaced by individual lifestyles, chosen out of a free market characterised by the tolerance  of indifference, he is not simply enunciating a reactionary or traditional view. Rather, he is expressing irritation at the poverty of modernity as it has been conceived in mainstream bourgeois intellectual discourse in the Republic. If it seems that Deane is conflating economic with cultural modernity, then it must be admitted that such may be the case but only because that is the character of the intellectual terrain as he comes to it, where an economic modernisation driven by transnational capital finds its intellectual analogue in modernisation theory. […] Modernisation was understood in a manner, as Desmond Bell (1988) writes, separated from the discourse of critical modernism, in the social, cultural or political sense. (McCarthy, pp.26-27.) McCarthy later writes of what Seamus Deane has called our long colonial concussion, being the crisis of Irelands post-1922 political ideologies, state unionism and state nationalism. (Deane, Heroic Styles: The Idea of a Tradition, Field Day Co. 1986, p.58.)
Colin Graham, Deconstructing Ireland: Identity, Theory and Culture (Edinburgh UP 2001) - extract on Deane - Guhas ..
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Eileen Battersby, ‘Stalked by an agenda, review of The Field Day Anthology [vols. IV& V], in in The Irish Times [Weekend] (5 Oct. 2002): […] Seamus Deane is an academic, writer and critic of international stature. The sheer quality of his prose and the energy of his pronouncements, as well as the colour of his political beliefs battling to give fair voice to the unionist tradition while undercutting the complexities of nationalism and unionism, were always going to ensure the first anthology, which clearly politicises writing, would be ideologically tense and exciting. It was. A decade later - much mauled, battle weary and maligned, it remains exciting, comprehensive and coherent. / Time has also proved it was, and is, far better than its opponents conceded. Having re-read the first anthology and read all of the two succeeding volumes, my honest response, without having intended to compare two very different projects, is that the three volumes published in 1991, are immensely superior. The two new volumes lack that very necessary cohesive, central editor presence, which Deane provided. [&c.; see full text, infra.]
Elmer Kennedy-Andrews (De-)constructing the North: Fiction and Northern Ireland since 1969 (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2003), on Reading in the Dark : Situated in the midst of the hegemonic struggle between competing discourses, and surrounded by a culture of lies and treachery in his own community, the boy strives to achieve knowledgte and understanding, an independent voice. His bid for selfhood challenges the colonial ethos of secrecy, repression, acquiescence, and dumbness - the maimed condition personified by his mother. (p.181). There is a rupture that has to be healed between the lived and the learned, myth and history, traditionalism and revisionism. The re-mythologising of the child re-inserts him within the communal codes while his participation in the rationalist drive of modernity gives him critical distance from a mystifying false consciousness. (p.220) The mother is, in her grief, taking the shock, the trauma of a history into herself, but can find no escape from it. (Idem; both quoted in Maureen-Anne Kane, UG Diss., UUC 2006.)
Gregory Castle, Modernism and the Celtic Revival (Cambridge UP 2001): Seamus Deane raises a question pertinent to both Revivalism and anthropological modernism in so far as both seek to invent or write Ireland: how was Joyce to create as literature something which would otherwise have no existence and yet was believed to exist already? The idea of Ireland  still uncreated, awaiting its realisation. (Celtic Revivals, Wake Forest UP 1987, p.99-100.) Finding in Joyce a desire to realise the idea of Ireland provides a powerful incentive for regarding him as a Revivalist, Deane goes so far as to argue that he was the one who most kept faith with the idea of reviving Irish culture: whereas Yeats did indeed give up, to some extent, the deliberate creation of a kind of Holy City in the imagination and replace it with images of enduring heroism and no-so-durable authority, Joyce remained faithful to the original conception of the Revival. His Dublin became the Holy City of which Yeats had despaired. (Ibid., pp.96.) / The important point here, as Deane and others have noted, is that Joyce refused the mystic essentialism that underwrote Yeatss Revivalist aesthetics. (Castle, pp.173-74.)
Kersti Tarien Powell, Irish Fiction: An Introduction (London: A & C Black [Continuum] 2004), 217pp.: As the Banim brothers wrote in the Introduction to The Boyne Water (1826): We, here in Ireland, ought to be anxious to ascertain our position accurately, if for no other reason than that we may give ourselves a common country. At present, the Irish, as a people, have no country, while the children of every other soil boast a proud identity with their native land (Banim xiii). This passages indicates the authors' awareness of having to create a national identity and represent a nation as a political entity within the novel. It also emphasizes that the common country was a self-generated concept and that the Irish did not need to emulate a foreign (English) model. The question that still fascinates critics and students alike is whether the realist novel, prevalent at the time, was the suitable model to accommodate the unknown tales of peculiar Irish manners and how Irish authors adapted and adopted that format in order to fit within its framework their aesthetic and political ambitions. Perhaps herein lies the answer to the question of why the Irish traditoin seems particularly rich in attempts to experiment with the novel form. As Seamus Deane argued in his essay Heroic Styles: the Tradition of an Idea (1983), there are two dominant ways of rading (Irish) history and literature (Deane, 45-58). One is romantic and, according to Deane, this is the mode of reading that takes pleasure in the notion that Ireland is a culture enriched by the ambiguity of its relatioship with an anachronistic and a modernized present. The other, denying this ambiguity and seeking to escape from it, locates itself in a pluralism of the present. He distinguishes between hot and cold rhetorics, the first being that of the spiritual heroics of Yeats and the second that of the exile, alienation, and dislocation of Joyce. Writing in the early 1980s, Deane took this division in rhetorics to be an equivalent of the crisis in the North, arguing that the modern Irish condition was a crisis of language. (Powell, p.152.)
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