Revolutionary Geography

Dublin Castle (via Wikipedia)

“Walking” around in my own virtual exploration of Dublin’s architectural features, I made my way to Dublin Castle. Dublin castle looks very impressive, particularly viewing the spiraling pathways drawn into the gardens from above, and I was struck by what Dublin Castle — and what other buildings throughout the Dublin landscape — symbolized to different people at different times in Ireland’s history. Dublin Castle was the seat of British rule in Ireland, and thus for Irish rebels and nationalists, a symbol of imperial power and the violation of Irish political and cultural independence. I think about Kilfeather’s account of the 1803 uprising, as Robert Emmet led a group of 200 to Dublin Castle reading a treatise that “set out the political motives and agenda of the United Irishmen and their statement on human rights” (Kilfeather 110). The march to Dublin Castle symbolically took this message to the English in power. 

Reading Kilfeather and Brown, I am intrigued by the different ways in which Irish nationalism manifested — different intellectual strands competed or coexisted simultaneously through time, but all served to reify and justify a distinct Irish identity, often in service of the goal of political independence and Irish political nationalism. From the uprisings of the early 19th century — including Robert Emmett’s — to the different strands of cultural nationalism that emerged through the century and into the 20th century, defining an Irish cultural and political identity was important for writers throughout the century. Different writers and thinkers seemed to focus on different aspects of Irish independence, both political, religious — interested in the needs of the Catholic majority, and cultural. As Brown points out, cultural nationalism itself took different forms, from those who believed in the necessity of reviving the Irish language to those who championed an English-language Celtic revival, but all looked to cultural production to find important symbols of Irish cultural independence. The symbols people chose to rally behind, or against, are still present in the Dublin landscape, as well as new symbols — such as a statue of Robert Emmet in St. Stephen’s Green — illustrating the history of rebellion in the city. 

1 Comment

  1. Hi, Alexa. It is definitely interesting to review these historical sites with various lenses, and as you point out, to wonder what Dublin’s landscape represented to people throughout history. I visited Dublin Castle last year on a trip I took. It was special because my friends and I had been meandering around not intending to visit the castle, but we turned a corner and its out-of-place architecture suddenly appeared. I wonder if this too happened to you on your virtual exploration or if you had set your intentions on finding it from the beginning. Either way, it is a very lovely spot. I just sat around the benches taking photos, but now this class has reshaped how I view it, especially now that I understand the depth of tension in its relations to Britain better.

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