Cultural Nationalism and Assimilation

Terence Brown, Burns Visiting Scholar for Spring 2014 semester. Photo provided by Center for Irish Programs.

Terence Brown’s text “Cultural Nationalism” explores the concept of cultural nationalism and what it means for the Irish from the years 1880- 1930. He prefaces discussion about the Irish Literary Revival by framing language in the context of cultural nationalism. He notes, “Language in such an understanding of national identity is what bears the gifts of the past into the present and supplies a living link with a racial spirituality” (Brown 516). This statement reminded me of a previously analyzed passage from Bram Stoker’s Dracula, published amidst the Literary Revival (late into the 19th century). In the novel, the Count intensely desires to learn the cultural customs of the English, particularly their manner of speaking, in order to assimilate. This nod to ideas of cultural nationalism shows the prevalence of the notion that cultural homogeneity is integral to acceptance into a community.

As Brown continues to communicate the details of cultural nationalism and its intertwine with political affairs in Ireland, the estrangement of those defined as not “Irish” enough becomes clear. Brown reveals that “The doctrines of the Irish Ireland movement, propagated with especial force by D.P. Moran… insisted that Ireland’s authentic cultural nationalist identity was unquestionably as a Gaelic and catholic nation, in which the Anglo-Irish, English-speaking protestant could have no part” (Brown 517). While rooted in political unrest and a desire for recognition as a separate nation, I noticed while reading that the movement for cultural nationalism begins to infringe upon the growth of the society as it moves forward. As mentioned previously, the push for the assimilation of its people becomes clear in this movement’s literary work. While cultural nationalism likely did give spirit to many Irish people seeking societal unity at this time, it also may have suppressed many who did not fit into the cultural box being created.

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