Katharine Tynan's Literature for Children and the Construction of Irish Identity
At the turn of the twentieth-century, Katharine Tynan was one of the most famous Irish writers, both for her association and correspondence with prominent Revival writers, especially William Butler Yeats, and as a prolific and acclaimed author in her own right. However, since her death in 1931, she has become relegated to the footnotes of Irish literary history. Such critical neglect is belied by her significance in life. Producing over a hundred books of fiction, poetry, history, autobiography, and children's literature, she advanced the characteristic Revival concern with Irish cultural identity among a very large audience both within Ireland and without. In the process, she achieved greater popular success than most of her contemporaries, becoming one of the most effective writers disseminating the values of the Literary Revival, an accomplishment diminished by the dearth of critical attention in the decades following her death. This dissertation clarifies Tynan's contribution to the creation of an Irish identity by specifically examining her corpus of children's literature, an area previously ignored even by those critics who have noticed her other works. Tynan adapted her children's literature from one genre to another to suit the needs and tastes of her young audience: in addition to children's poetry and adolescent romance novels, she wrote non-fiction texts of Irish history, religion, social etiquette, and travel guides. Examining selections of her children's literature shows how it reflects her concerns with Irish cultural identity.Her poetry given as "toy books," her novels presented as "reward books," her books of history taught in schools, her short narratives published in international travel series, and her views on behavior codified into books of conduct all worked to offer an alternative representation of Ireland from the colonial construct. Her works of fiction and nonfiction, interacting with each other, form an ideological whole. Ultimately, such cohesion embodies Tynan's construction of an ancient, noble Ireland imbued with, as she says, "virtues of hospitality and generosity."
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