Global Irish Research Network (GIRN) Seminar - Frances Flanagan

When:17 Oct 2014, 5:30pm - 6:45pm
Venue:Theatre 4, Central Lecture Block, UNSW Kensington Campus
Who:Dr Frances Flanagan

You are invited to the next meeting of the Global Irish Research Network, a seminar presentation by Dr Frances Flanagan.

'The revolution and modern memory: war stories in Ireland and Europe in the 1920s'


The memorialisation of the Irish revolution in the Irish Free State has generally been understood as a hagiographical and parochial affair. Rival pantheons of revolutionary heroes were claimed by both sides in the Treaty split; their relative ‘greatness’, piety and bravery asserted with the shrillness that accompanies the narcissism of small differences.

A small number of radical nationalists dissented from prevailing interpretations, though, and chronicled revolutionary violence in ways that were strikingly at odds with the dominant militarist and Catholic frames for understanding the 1916-21 period. Often concealing their analyses in fiction or writing pseudonymously, these writers attended to the ignoble, amateurish and clumsy aspects of revolution, and the ways in which radicalism hardened and narrowed the lives of nationalists as much as elevated them. These accounts were sensitive to the experiences of civilians, who had made up a remarkably high proportion of casualties (more than half of those killed in 1921) but whose stories were virtually non-existent in mainstream representations. They also recorded what had been absent from the revolution, evoking the changes to Irish life that had been dreamt of before 1916 in the realm of culture, economics, industry, religion, class and gender relations that the war of independence had left unchanged.

This paper explores the contours of popular and dissenting literature about the Irish revolution in the 1920s, and sets the analysis in a transnational perspective. The early memorialisation of the Irish revolution, it is argued, not only diverges from accepted understandings of the period, but should be seen as part of wider European phenomenon of post-war anxiety, in which intellectuals wrestled with the ambivalent legacy of violence and questioned the idea of relentless human advance.


Frances Flanagan is the author of the forthcoming book Remembering the Revolution: dissent, nationalism and culture in the Irish Free State, with Oxford University Press. She holds degrees in Arts and Law from the University of Western Australia, and an MSt and DPhil from the University of Oxford. She has been a lecturer and postdoctoral researcher at Birkbeck, University of London and presently works as a researcher at the University of Sydney.

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Dr Gemma Clark | Tel: 9385 7399 | Email:

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