Thomas MacGreevy: poetry, art, and nation

Green, Alanna Lee (2018) Thomas MacGreevy: poetry, art, and nation. Doctoral thesis (PhD), University of Sussex.

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Abstract

Thomas MacGreevy was a Catholic, an Irish nationalist, and an international
modernist who lived through two world wars. His life and work marks him as an
active voice in the contentious cultural debates about art, poetry, and modernity that
emerged in Ireland immediately after the First World War. This thesis examines the
ways in which the three critical components of his life - modernism, Catholicism, and
nationalism - interact with each other to distinguish MacGreevy as a poet.

MacGreevy’s life has been approached in broadly chronological order. The
thesis is not an intellectual or literary biography, but a critical study of his life and
published works. His role as a volunteer in the British Army during the First World
War, especially as an Irishman fighting on behalf of the British, is crucial to
understanding him as a poet. The theological questions and nationalist ideology with
which he returned to Dublin after the war greatly influenced his role as a literary critic
and writer, as well as his career as an art historian and art critic while Director of the
National Gallery, Dublin. His literary career in London and Paris in the nineteen
twenties and thirties was crucial to his development as a modernist. His literary
associations with other modernists of the interwar period, including W.B. Yeats,
James Joyce, and T.S. Eliot, were highly influential. The physical detachment from
his homeland during these periods of his life crystallised his sense of nationalism,
whilst also creating space for an international identity to emerge.

Of the three constants of MacGreevy’s life examined in this thesis -
nationalism, Catholicism, and modernism - nationalism progressively evolved from a
creed to an institution. His Catholicism too became progressively stronger, and in the
latter half of his life was a decisive factor in the work he produced and published. His
modernism was determined by the European locations where he lived, and by his
professional associations. By aligning himself with the cultural nationalism of Yeats
and the modernism of Eliot, MacGreevy aligned himself with a new mainstream
modernism.

What makes MacGreevy distinctive is that he was an international nationalist
who remained throughout his life a deeply-rooted Catholic. The context in which
MacGreevy operated transformed itself over the course of the twentieth century as a
nation-based nationalism came into conflict with modernist internationalism.
MacGreevy’s response to this conflict produced a combination of his international
culture and the religion of his homeland, the international religion of Catholicism.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Schools and Departments: School of English > English
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature > PR6000 1900-1960 > PR6025.A239 MacGreevy, Thomas
Depositing User: Library Cataloguing
Date Deposited: 16 Jan 2019 12:23
Last Modified: 16 Jan 2019 12:23
URI: http://sro.sussex.ac.uk/id/eprint/81320

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