Populist moments and movements have compelled authors to reject established forms and invent new ones. Sometimes, as in the middle period of W.B. Yeats's work, populism forces a writer into impossible stances, spurring ever greater rhetorical and poetic creativity. At other times, as in the critiques of Anna Parnell or Myles na gCopaleen, authors penetrate the rhetoric fog of populist discourse and expose the hollowness of its claims. Yet in both politics and culture, populism can be a generative force. Daniel O'Connell, and later the Land League, utilized populist discourse to advance Irish political freedom and expand rights.
The most powerful works of Lady Gregory and Ernie O'Malley are their portraits of The People that borrows from the populist vocabulary. While we must be critical of populist discourse, we dismiss it at our loss. This study synthesizes existing scholarship on populism to explore how Irish texts have evoked "The People"--a crucial rhetorical move for populist discourse--and how some writers have critiqued, adopted, and adapted the languages of Irish populisms.
Seamus O'Malley is Associate Professor of English at Stern College for Women at Yeshiva University. He has published widely on British and Irish modernist literature, as well as graphic novels.
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