Caoilfhionn Nic Pháidín

Fáinne an Lae agus an Athbheochan 1898-1900

A review of the early Irish-language print media, the Revival period and the personalities who shaped it.

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A review of the early Irish-language print media, the Revival period and the personalities who shaped it. A reassessment of the critical categorisation of literary genres of the period.

Weight 410 g
Cover

hard, soft

Proinsias Ó Drisceoil. Book of the Day, The Irish Times, 20.11.1998

This book is at once a history and a manifesto. Ostensibly it tells the story of Fáinne an Lae, a Bilingual newspaper published as part of the Gaelic revival between 1898 and 1900. Its publisher was Bernard Doyle and while it was printed in Dublin, most of its support came from Cork. The story brings many issues to light, most notably the role of newspapers in the Gaelic revival and in the creation of a readership for works in Irish, as well as issues of critical categorisation and cultural interpretation.

Fáinne an Lae carried on its propaganda in both Irish and English and bestowed on journalism in Irish a propagandist function it has never outgrown. Nonetheless, a vibrant journalism might have yielded standardised and flexible forms of grammar and spelling had not other factors intervened. While newspapers generally develop as a symptom of literacy, newspapers in Irish were uniquely intended to create literacy where little or none existed. An informed estimate of 1882 put at 50 the number of those in the whole country able to read and write Irish. Illiteracy and the speaking of Irish were synonymous; literacy in English was a necessary prelude to literacy in Irish. Furthermore Patrick Pearse's claim that "Gael is not like other men" required that newspapers which carried propaganda such as his own be controlled by the central body of the revival, the Dublin executive of the Gaelic league. Doyle depended on the league for endorsement, circulation and editorial direction and Cork-Dublin tensions and other factors led the Gaelic league to establish an Claidheamh Solais as a rival to Fáinne an Lae, Doyle's enterprise was doomed and he was eventually bankrupted. No subsequent Irish-language newspaper appeared without subsidy and, more vitally, none had any more success than Fáinne an lae in establishing a readership for written material in Irish. Nic Pháidín cites evidence of rural schoolmasters reading aloud to neighbours, but the leap to widespread private reading never occurred. Primers (or what Sean O'Casey called 'enders') were to be the most popular reading material in Irish, followed in rapidly descending order by bilingual newspapers, prescribed texts and with the slightest readership of all, literary works.

"The story brings many issues to light, most notably the role of newspapers in the Gaelic Revival, and of a creation of a readership for work in Irish, as well as issues of critical categorisation and cultural interpretation... Nic Pháidín calls for a radical reinterpretation of the history of writing in Irish in the twentieth century. Models which attach exclusive value to prose or poetry, are she argues, appropiate to French or English but not to Irish.Instead, low prestige material such as journalism, diaries or translations need to be acknowledged as part of the century's literary achievement...in line with Gaelic literary tradition rather than external models."

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