Aesthetic Concepts in Modern Irish Literature

When we talk about modern Irish literature, a period from the end of the XIX century and till the present times is meant. The long and tragic history of Ireland bred a unique literary world and true geniuses of their times.

Irish people had been fighting for independence for a long time and gained it only in 1922. And there are still many controversies up to this day.

Authors of modern Irish literature have made a great contribution to the world’s cultural heritage. If you’ve come across this article preparing for an essay on Irish literature subject and don’t feel like doing, better not waste any more time and delegate the work to the pros from or Assignment Partner.

Yet, if you are genuinely interested in the topic, keep reading. 

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First of all, it is important to get to know what the word “aestheticism” means. According to Britannica, aestheticism is a late 19th-century European art movement that centered on the doctrine that art exists for the sake of its beauty alone. Thus, it does not need to serve any political, didactic, or other purposes.

Aestheticism became popular, mostly in Great Britain. The movement appeared in a bohemian society of the Victorian Era and then was well received by both artists and the audience.

It was a response to the excessive moralizing and positivist philosophy of a new capitalist society. Though it did not really live that long and was replaced by other movements, it had a great impact on Irish literature.

To find general features of aestheticism in modern Irish literature, it is better to analyze the works of the well-known writers and poets originating from Eire.

Let’s discuss the works of the three most prominent ones.

Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde is one of the brightest representatives of Irish aestheticism. The idea of suspension of reality has had a great impact on his works. He was sure that the concern for the truth in the art would lead to its death. That is why art was perceived as a lie. And the task of an artist is to delight and satisfy the readers, not speak the truth.

At the same time, the writer didn’t divide good and evil. He ruined the unity of aesthetic and ethic, preaching hedonism and immorality. Enjoyment was the only sense of art and life for Wilde.

Being one of the best playwrights, poets, and novelists of the Victorian Era, this writer was always focused on beauty. He did not concentrate much on everyday stuff.

James Joyce

James was barely one of those writers who search for one’s personal style during the whole life. He preferred to make art and feel the process, to change.

That is why Joyce integrated his vision of aestheticism into each publication. He didn’t form a theory of the movement by laying out facts and principles. He gave the possibility to make conclusions and interpret the reading as per the audience’s wishes.

Being a fan of Henrik Ibsen, he was always confronting generally accepted rules of literature. James Joyce was sure that traditions impede development and stop an artist from carrying out one’s mission.

In the end, Joyce believed, an artist becomes a loner. Such a position helps to complete the mission. Distance from life lets one become free, see the reality, and then show a spiritual side in the works.

Samuel Beckett

In 1969, Samuel got the Nobel Prize in Literature “for his writing, which – in new forms for the novel and drama – in the destitution of modern man acquires its elevation.”

The experiments of the author made drama and novel look completely new. His works were full of senseless dialogues, reasoning about the meaningless of human existence, and tragedy.

Apart from that, Beckett loved to use paradoxes and mysterious symbols. For that reason, he was named as an inventor of what can be arguably called an aesthetic trend – absurdism.

Final Words

These three authors were the greatest Irish artists from the world of literature during a modern period. Through their compositions, people could trace the main features of Irish aestheticism.

Those can be listed as follows:

  • A strong interest in beauty;
  • Detachment from real-life concerns, political and social problems of the country;
  • Invisible author’s presence in each of the works;
  • Thought-provoking ideas;
  • The constant search of specific manner and style, tendency to experiment;
  • Detachment from traditional norms of literature;
  • Aiming at concentrating on internal, not external elements;
  • The use of tragic, mystery, paradoxes, absurd.

Such writers as Oscar Wilde, James Joyce, and Samuel Beckett had a significant impact on their counterparts and future generations. So, we can track these concepts and characteristics in most of the works of Irish writers.

Irish aesthetic authors managed to build a one-of-a-kind style. They saturated it with a certain vision of the world, life, art, and beauty.

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