Rethinking the Irish in the American South

Rethinking the Irish in the American South: Beyond Rounders and Reelers

Edited by BRYAN ALBIN GIEMZA
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 208
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt24hvvm
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    Rethinking the Irish in the American South
    Book Description:

    Studies of the Irish presence in America have tended to look to the main corridors of emigration, and hence outside the American South. Yet the Irish constituted a significant minority in the region. Indeed, the Irish fascination expresses itself in Southern context in powerful, but disparate, registers: music, literature, and often, a sense of shared heritage.Rethinking the Irish in the Southaims to create a readable, thorough introduction to the subject, establishing new ground for areas of inquiry.

    These essays offer a revisionist critique of the Irish in the South, calling into question widely held understandings of how Irish culture was transmitted. The discussion ranges from Appalachian ballads, toGone With the Wind, to the Irish rock band U2, to Atlantic-spanning literary friendships. Rather than seeing the Irish presence as "natural" or something completed in the past, these essays posit a shifting, evolving, and unstable influence. Taken collectively, they offer a new framework for interpreting the Irish in the region. The implications extend to the interpretation of migration patterns, to the understanding of Irish diaspora, and the assimilation of immigrants and their ideas

    eISBN: 978-1-62103-952-5
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. I-IV)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. V-VI)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. VII-2)
    BG
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 3-16)
    BRYAN ALBIN GIEMZA

    Popular culture conceives of the Irish diaspora as a peculiarly gifted if misunderstood people charged with an exceptionalist destiny yet to be worked out. This might help to explain why census data shows a fairly dramatic surge in those who claim Irish ancestry over recent decades, with southern respondents increasingly defecting from the “Scotch-Irish” column and migrating to the generically “Irish” (more on this nomenclature soon). We have also witnessed the reclamation of other once-marginalized ethnic groups in the South, too, especially Native Americans. Not only are the Irish more southern than we thought, as historians are beginning to recognize,...

  5. I. QUESTIONS OF HISTORICAL DEFINITION

    • Chapter 1 “A LENGTHENING CHAIN IN THE SHAPE OF MEMORIES” The Irish and Southern Culture
      (pp. 19-35)
      WILLIAM R. FERRIS

      The purpose of this essay, which commences in the circumstances of family history, is to provide an overview of some of the ways and places where the Irish have imprinted southern culture. Of course, the Irish were not the only immigrant group to leave their mark on the regional culture, but for a variety of reasons—including the perception that the Irish were “outsiders” to the region—the Irish presence in the region has sometimes gone unnoticed.

      To explore the relationship between Ireland and southern culture is for many southerners an intensely personal journey. My own family has Irish ancestry...

    • Chapter 2 AFTER STRANGE KIN Further Reflections on the Relations between Ireland and the American South
      (pp. 36-50)
      KIERAN QUINLAN

      Strange Kin: Ireland and the American South, published in 2005, had its initial inspiration in the frequently heard remark that there is a certain similarity between Ireland and the American South as places in which a veritable explosion of literary creativity took place in the early twentieth century—that is to say, the achievements of W. B. Yeats, James Joyce, and Seán O’Casey, among numerous others, on the Irish side, and of William Faulkner, Eudora Welty, and Tennessee Williams, again among numerous others, on the southern. The observation is usually made in the context of also remarking on the two...

    • Chapter 3 IRISH MIGRATION TO THE COLONIAL SOUTH A Plea for a Forgotten Topic
      (pp. 51-74)
      PATRICK GRIFFIN

      The topic of Irish migration to the colonial South remains understudied, and with good reason. Comparatively speaking, it was—and in memory, continues to be—dwarfed by other, more visible and significant migrations, most notably that of the Scotch Irish to the eighteenth-century American colonies and the even larger nineteenth- and twentieth-century movement of the Irish to the United States. The colonial period, especially in the South, did not have much of an Irish component. We know something of a few individuals, but truth be told, these are an exceptional people whom earlier ethnic chauvinists tried to insert into a...

  6. II. MANIPULATING CULTURE:: INFLUENCE, RECONSIDERED

    • Chapter 4 TARA, THE O’HARAS, AND THE IRISH GONE WITH THE WIND
      (pp. 77-91)
      GERALDINE HIGGINS

      Perhaps one of the most frustrating things for fans ofGone with the Windis arriving in Atlanta, Georgia, only to discover that they have come to the wrong place. If they want to see the white columns and the wraparound porch of Tara, they need to go to Burbank, California, and take a tour of the MGM movie lot. Because Tara does not exist. Perhaps this is fortuitous, given the many anxieties about Mitchell’s representation of plantation life in antebellum Georgia. Mitchell’s attitudes toward slavery, and the book’s and film’s nostalgia for the Lost Cause, have occasioned a repudiation...

    • Chapter 5 TRANSATLANTIC RITES OF PASSAGE IN THE FRIENDSHIP AND FICTION OF EUDORA WELTY AND ELIZABETH BOWEN
      (pp. 92-121)
      KATHRYN STELMACH ARTUSO

      While suffering from homesickness at the University of Wisconsin, Eudora Welty restlessly wandered the library until she stumbled across the poetry of William Butler Yeats and remained thoroughly absorbed in the volume until the library closed. Returning day after day to read the poetry of Yeats and George Russell, Welty found her depression alleviated by the Irish revivalists and the warmth of their mysticism, a mysticism that ameliorated far “more than the pangs of growing up” and fulfilled her “desire to be shown that the human spirit was not like that shivery winter in Wisconsin, that the opposite to all...

    • Chapter 6 SHARED TRADITIONS Irish and Appalachian Ballads and Whiskey Songs
      (pp. 122-139)
      EMILY KADER

      One of the most contentious debates within southern studies is whether Scotch-Irish settlers within the region can be considered “Celtic.” Grady McWhiney, in his bookCracker Culture: Celtic Ways in the Old South, argues that Ulster Scots immigrants carried various “Celtic” traits and practices that led to a distinctive southern culture. While McWhiney’s study contains some good information, its thesis and analysis are too heavily burdened by a desire to define the “ethnic background of white southerners” as Celtic and thus a distinct cultural group oppressed by the Anglo-Saxon descendants of the North (2). His idea of the “conflict between...

    • Chapter 7 BLACKS AND CELTS ON THE RIVERINE FRONTIERS The Roots of American Popular Music
      (pp. 140-160)
      CHRISTOPHER J. SMITH

      Environments—geographical, demographic, historical, and contextual—have played a key role in American popular music, particularly in the case of minstrelsy, the nineteenth-century black/white synthesis that lies at the root of vaudeville, tap dance, Tin Pan Alley, and musical comedy. Scholars have identified the role played by shifting antebellum conceptions of class, race, and politics in the creation of blackface minstrelsy, and the way the idiom ritualized or contested these conceptions, but, with a few brief exceptions, they have neglected the physical environments—the contested public spaces—in which the blackface synthesis first occurred. Place—particularly the boundary spaces of...

  7. III. IDEOLOGY AND AMBIVALENCE

    • Chapter 8 ANOTHER “LOST CAUSE” The Irish in the South Remember the Confederacy
      (pp. 163-182)
      DAVID T. GLEESON

      In 1877 a group of prominent Irish Americans met in Charleston to commemorate the Irish Volunteers in the Confederate States of America. Two companies of that name had served during the American Civil War in South Carolina, Virginia, and North Carolina. The original volunteers, Company C of the Charleston Battalion, later Company H of the Twenty-Seventh South Carolina Infantry, had participated in all the major battles around Charleston between 1861 and 1864, including Secessionville and Battery Wagner, before being sent to the trenches of Petersburg, Virginia, in the summer of 1864. The other company, which took the name Irish Volunteers...

    • Chapter 9 ON THE USES OF SLAVERY The Irish in the South and Civil War Rhetoric
      (pp. 183-203)
      BRYAN ALBIN GIEMZA

      Let us start with a case study in how the Irish are “lost” to southern history, and let us begin in a watershed year: 1846 was a defining year in terms of the entangling of southern and Irish causes, as it set into motion a chain of circumstances that brought the country to war. This was the year that a previously unnoticed St. Louis slave named Dred Scott walked into St. Louis’s old Courthouse and sued for his freedom. Ten years later, after appeals and reversals, a Baltimorean named Roger Brooke Taney (pronounced “Tawney”) would settle the case and announce...

    • Coda SMOKE ’N’ GUNS A Preface to a Poem about Marginal Souths, and Then the Poem
      (pp. 204-211)
      CONOR O’CALLAGHAN

      You are Irish. You live in America’s marginal South, where being Irish remains sufficiently unusual as to be found exotic. You get used to the conversation. It seems to happen once a day, every day.

      “Where are y’all from?”

      “Ireland.”

      “Oh really! What part?”

      It gets murky around about here. You want to be polite—everybody in the South always is—but you know as well that the only names of Ireland they recognize are Dublin and Killarney. The momentary hesitation registers, and to help you out they ask more specifically,

      “The North or the South?”

      “The South, I suppose.”...

  8. CONTRIBUTORS
    (pp. 212-215)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 216-223)