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Ireland’s Harp

The Shaping of Irish Identity c.1770 to 1880

The image of the harp - symbolic of the political and cultural landscape of Ireland for centuries - evokes strong sentiments in the collective Irish imagination. This iconic instrument became the emblem on Irish coinage in the sixteenth century. Since then it has been symbolic of Irish culture, music, and politics - finally evolving into a significant marker of national identity in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. The most important period in this evolution was between 1770 and 1880. In these years, the instrument became central to many utopian visions of an autonomous Irish nation and the harp’s metaphoric significance eclipsed its musical one. Mary Louise O’Donnell uses these fascinating years of major social, political, and cultural change as the focus of her study on the Irish harp. From the revolutionary symbolism of the harp to the cultural curiosities that were the blind Irish harpers, the many permutations of Ireland’s harp are thoroughly examined. O’Donnell also discusses how the protection and patronage of the Irish harpers passed from the aristocratic Gaelic order to the Ascendancy and affluent middle classes in Dublin and Belfast.Ireland’s Harp brings to light the monumental importance of this instrument by highlighting the central place the harp occupied in the formation and expression of Ireland’s cultural and national identity.

182 pages

History: British and Irish History


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements List of Illustrations Introduction - The Irish Harp as ’a Driving Image of Revolution’ in the Late Eighteenth Century ’Towards the Grave of Oblivion’ - The Politics of Irish Harping in the Eighteenth Century ’One Faithful Harp’ and Harper in the Works of Owenson, Maturin, and Moore Custodians of Culture - Patronage and the sacred Fire of Patriotism John Egan - An Innovator and Inventor The Harp of Kings and Liberators Cultural Curiosities - The Last of the Blind Irish Harpers Epilogue - Relics and Revivals Notes Bibliography Index.

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