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Multiple Mobilities and Irish Identity.

THIS COLLECTION OF eleven essays looks at how traveling and migration, in various forms, shaped ideas about transculturalism, nationalism, transnationalism, diaspora, and home in Ireland in the long nineteenth century. The editors, Marguerite Corporaal and Christina Morin, argue that the 1798 Rebellion, followed by the Act of Union in 1800, initiated a period of increased mobility, both physically and imaginatively (4). The book takes into account the many types of traveler, fictional and nonfictional, including the famine migrant, the artist, the soldier, the politician and, of course, the author. But it also moves beyond such individual adventures to include moments of "cultural transfer and interaction" through discussions of translation and transnational collaborations (2). Thus we also see how cultural materials, like art and books, traveled alongside ideas and identities. Taken together the various essays demonstrate that these multiple mobilities brought Ireland into conversation with the world around it, and suggest that Irish identity was a product of these various interactions and exchanges. This is particularly interesting given that the period in question is frequently perceived as a time when Ireland cultivated its own separate and distinct national identity.

Travelling Irishness therefore resists the colonial binarisms familiar to many scholars of nineteenth-century travel by interrogating the whole notion of borders and boundaries in relation to the production and representation of identity. There is a real sense here of what the editors refer to as the "dynamic nature of identity formation and cultural transmission" (10). However, the Introduction stops short of an extended discussion of the critical and theoretical issues that underpin this process. There is space only for a brief account of recent scholarship that explores transnationalism in relation to culture and identity.

We must wait until Peter D. O'Neill's essay, "Traveling Irishness and the Transnational James Connolly," to find an extended analysis of the term and its theoretical contexts. Certainly, the hybrid identities of nineteenth-century Ireland, as recently outlined by Melissa Fegan, seem critical here. (1) Agnew and Ingelbien also point out that the colonial situation ensured that for many Irish travellers there was an understanding of double identities, of being both subject and object, and this peculiar position shaped their interactions and representations. (2) This hybridity is central to several of the essays here, including those by Anne O'Connor, Joachim Fischer, and Meidhbhin Ni Urdail.

Nonetheless, the book does a wonderful job of situating Irish men and women as wholly cosmopolitan by moving beyond Ireland's relationship with Britain and elucidating how Irishness interacted with and within other geographical spaces, such as Italy, France, Germany, Canada, and America. Evidently, Ireland participated in and contributed to various cultural, political, and aesthetic movements. This is perfectly summed up by the wonderful example of John Lavery (1856-1941) and his painting In Morocco (c. 1912). Corporaal and Morin show that the art and the artist travelled far beyond Ireland's environs to create networks of intellectual engagement and cultural exchange in ways that are mirrored throughout the following essays.

The editors divide the collection into four sections: Exploring the Continent: Traveling Irish; Traveling Genres, Movements, and Forms; Representations of Traveling; and, Experiencing Migration. This structure sets out distinct focal points while also providing an indication of the wide range of subjects and approaches covered here. In all instances, the authors place Irishness in conversation with wider contexts.

The first section focuses on Irish women travel writers and their journeys to Europe. These essays contribute to the ongoing recovery of nineteenth-century women's travel and recent efforts to explore Irish travels to non-Anglophone nations, and clearly there remains much to do in both fields. The focus in this section is on the complex intersections of identity politics, but there is also an understanding of how the travel genre reflects such ideas. Of particular interest is the way in which the travel narrative enabled women to explore issues in their own culture and society. For example, Julia Kavanagh (1824-1877) and Mabel Sharman Crawford (1821-1912) traveled to Italy in the years preceding Italian unification in 1861; this significant historical moment was of great interest to Irish readers due to corresponding conflicts over land and sovereignty.

Anne O'Connor explores how Kavanagh, as an Irish, Catholic, middle-class woman who spent a lot of time in England and France, produced a nuanced representation of Italy as a counternarrative to the Protestant ideologies and anxieties expressed by many of her Anglo-Irish peers (15-35). In an interesting follow-up, Peter Gray argues that Crawford, a radical Ulster Protestant, rejected sectarian prejudices and that her time in Tuscany shaped her ideas about the political, educational and legal rights of women in Ireland (35-51). Joachim Fischer's much longer essay on Maria Frances Dickson (c. 1810-1885) also sees travel as a way of shaping ideas and political identities, although it changes direction somewhat by focusing on travels to Germany and the west of Ireland in the 1830s and 1840s (51-81). Gender and religion remain important intersections, but it is the duality of Dickson's Anglo-Irishness that comes to the fore. Travel writing, as Fischer argues, perfectly expresses this identity because it is "the prime genre in which cultural hybridity becomes explicit" (53).

Further discussion of the complexities of Irish identity take place in Section Two. These three essays explore the negotiations of Irishness in art and politics. Anne Cormican and Peter D. O'Neill argue that prominent individuals, such as William Orpen (1878-1931) and James Connolly (1868-1916) respectively, brought international perspectives and experiences to their work in Ireland. Orpen's was crucial to establishing the European collection in Dublin's Municipal Gallery, which "he regarded as central to both the cultural renaissance and the formation of Irish national identity" (85). O'Neill's essay also asserts the importance of transnational influences to Irish nationalism. He argues that Connolly's American experiences forged a class-consciousness and anti-capitalist agenda that moved beyond the restrictions of the nation-state and informed his resistance to British colonialism (103-119).

Marguerite Corporaal's essay, "Travelling Cabins: The Popularity of Irish Local-Color Fiction in Early Nineteenth-Century Europe," exemplifies similar ideas about the productive circulation of political and aesthetic discussions in an increasingly global world. However, as Corporaal shows, cultural transformations throughout Europe were also a shared source of anxiety, and regional narratives became a way to negotiate dominant national identities. Texts such as The Irish Cottage (1835) were therefore translated into German, Dutch and French partly because they expressed collective concerns about dislocation and the loss of the local.

Section Three: "Representations of Traveling" continues the focus on fictional texts. Matthew Reznicek's essay on Maria Edgeworth (1768-1849) and Jim Shanahan's discussion of Charles Lever (1806-1872) show how these authors, informed by their own journeys to Europe, used travel in their novels as a way to create more cosmopolitan characters. Reznicek closely examines the small Parisian section of Ormond (1817) and suggests that this interlude represents Edgeworth's engagement with transnational intellectual cultures and debates (141-62). Through Ormond, such interactions are seen as central to the development of the individual and their wider cultural communities. Shanahan takes a much a wider perspective. He demonstrates how Lever's various peripatetic characters were attempts to reconcile the conflicting aspects of his own identity, as British, as Irish, and as an exile (163-85). These characters, in particular the protagonist of The Dodd Family Abroad (1854), negotiated ideas about how a distinct Irish identity might also contribute to a wider sense of Britishness.

The conflicting elements of Irishness are central to the essays in "Experiencing Migration." The authors elucidate the dissemination of different forms of print culture, from popular novels to poetry manuscripts. Christina Morin and Jason King explain that Irish popular literature was read widely throughout Britain, Europe, North America, and the British colonies and thereby played an important role in disseminating Irish identity, despite literary prejudices of the time. Morin revises the history of the Minerva Press, the principle publisher of popular novels in the nineteenth century, to show that a number of emigre Irish authors made a significant contribution to the global publishing house (185-204).

King focuses on the national tale, as it emerged in North America and Canada (205-24). For the Irish-Americans, these novels featured heroes who consolidated patriotism and strengthened transatlantic diasporic identities. However, Irish-Canadians were suspicious about the lure of revolutionary violence and preferred protagonists who opposed the Fenian cause. Consequently then, the host nation played a prominent role in shaping diasporic Irish identities.

The final essay in the collection, "A Cork Scribe in Victorian London" by Meidhbhin Ni Urdail, examines the largely unknown manuscripts and correspondence of Thomas O'Connor (1798-d.?). While living and working in London, O'Connor composed a number of aisling-type political poems that articulated a desire for Ireland's freedom from British rule. Ni Urdail suggests that there were various migrants like O'Connor who, while fully integrated in British culture and society, were central to the promotion of Irish nationalism abroad. Therefore O'Connor, like many subjects in this collection, embodies hybridity and transnationalism.

As a whole then, the collection attempts to outline the various aspects of Irish identity by extending our understanding of Irishness. It shows that nineteenth-century Ireland was a space of transnational hybridities and interactions, and these were frequently productive and empowering. In this way, the collection is a welcome addition to recent explorations of Irish travel that move beyond the extensive work done on famine migration.

--Kingston University


Marguerite Corporaal and Christina Morin, Editors.


(1.) Melissa Fegan, '"Of Every Land the Guest": Aubrey de Vere's Travels,' Studies in Travel Writing, 20:2 (2016), pp 135-48.

(2.) Eadaoin Agnew and Raphael Ingelbien, "Irish Travel Writers: An Introduction," Studies in Travel Writing, 20:2 (2016), pp 1-5.
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Title Annotation:Traveling Irishness in the Long Nineteenth Century
Author:Agnew, Eadaoin
Publication:Irish Literary Supplement
Article Type:Book review
Date:Sep 22, 2019
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