Power of Language

I found the emphasis on the importance of language in tradition, and ultimately culture, in the “Cultural Nationalism” reading by Terence Brown to be fascinating. In just the first paragraph, the power of language is described to transcend its time and provide the basis of a cultural identity. This can be exemplified in the quote, “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.” Words have the power to generate a group’s culture through the production of their literature, folklore, etc. which follows each subsequent generation, thereby influencing newly created culture and forming the basis of a national identity.

The reading goes on to explain the link between the Irish Literary Revival movement as a cultural movement as well as a political movement. Trying to restore the Gaelic language, and thus a piece of Irish culture, could unify the population similarly to political struggles. This attempt to revitalize Irish culture through the Gaelic language in an increasingly English-dominated Ireland speaks to their desire to differentiate from other cultures. This process of doing so will undoubtedly become more evident to me in the future works that we will read since the movement is language based.

This importance of language in a culture got me thinking about the few pieces of Irish literature we have read in the course so far and their impact on the subsequent culture that followed. The novel Dracula, by Bram Stoker, helped create the basis for widespread knowledge of mainstream vampiric supernatural folklore superstitions. The legends of vampires existed before Stoker wrote his novel, and yet a century later, Dracula has become synonymous with vampire because of the novel’s impact on its culture. 


  1. I think language is an excellent topic to consider–and I also love your picture of the Vampire Repellent! What you wrote about made me remember how relevant language was to Wilde, as well–though perhaps in a very different way. Even so, Wilde definitely seemed to make the point that language and words can largely determine who you are. I think this point is relevant on both the individual level as well as the societal level. Most people would probably agree with me that language is absolutely a central feature of a cultural group, and so it’s interesting to think about the implications the Irish language had on the revival of Irish culture.

  2. I also thought of this topic while reading the novel, since I found it interesting how much the book focused on authorship and literature throughout its entirety. When people think of culture nowadays, they think of our technology– television, social media, etc. But I think that we should also look to our modern-day literature as a reflection of culture as well, especially since it can still have the same broad impact that literature had during historical times. I would love to hear your thoughts on this and if there are any modern literary pieces that you think are indicative of our culture today!

  3. Brown’s discussion of language was definitely notable, and highlighted its importance in Ireland’s cultural and political history. I thought that your final connection of Brown’s ideas of language as powerful to the modern synonymity of Dracula and vampire was very intriguing!

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