Ireland’s working-class literature: neglected themes, amphibian academics and the challenges ahead

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Irish working-class history, culture, and literature are attracting increasing academic interest. With the publication of A History of Irish Working-Class Writing (2017), Declan Kiberd could write that its focus on ‘an astonishing range of writing – from work-songs and political rhymes to poetry and government reports, from novels and plays to biographies by or about working people’, would ‘set many of the terms of cultural debate in the decade to come’. This essay asks a number of timely questions in that regard: What is the likely shape of that future debate, in terms of class and culture in Ireland, and what are the lacunae that will guide research and publishing priorities for those who engage with it in academia and the arts? What has been achieved in terms of the recent scholarly inquiry into working-class writing and what are that inquiry's blindspots and limitations? The international contexts, historical breadth, categorical limitations, and institutional and societal challenges are all surveyed in this necessarily short sketch of some of the major issues.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)67-81
Number of pages5
JournalIrish University Review
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 01 May 2020


  • Irish literature
  • working-class writing
  • working-class culture
  • class
  • inequality


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