Ireland's Harp: The Shaping of Irish Identity c. 1770 to 1880

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9781906359867: Ireland's Harp: The Shaping of Irish Identity c. 1770 to 1880

Mary Louise O'Donnell uses the major social, political, and cultural changes from 1770 to 1880 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.

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About the Author:

MARY LOUISE O'DONNELL holds a doctorate from the University of Limerick and is a former Irish Research Council postgraduate scholar and postdoctoral fellow. Her research on the history and performance practice of the Irish harp has been published in Utopian Studies, Eire-Ireland, and The American Harp Journal, and she has also published widely on topics relating to Irish cultural history, semiotics, and performance studies. She is a renowned harpist and has given lecture/recitals throughout Europe, North America, and Australia.


'Mary Louise O'Donnell is to the forefront of a new generation of Irish scholars whose focus is Irish musical tradition. Her ability to situate the music within a broad social and political canvas results in a wealth of fresh insights that will invigorate this rising aspect of Irish Studies across the world.' (Professor Micheal O Suilleabhain, Irish World Academy, University of Limerick) Mary Louise O'Donnell has written an authoritative and detailed study of the role played by the wire-strung Irish harp in the development of Irish cultural identity and nationalism in the late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Drawing on her doctoral research and extensively illustrated, Ireland's Harp marks an important contribution to the literature on Irish music and cultural history. Following the decline of Gaelic society in the seventeenth century harpers adapted their instruments, repertoire and techniques to the changing demands and patronage of the new multicultural environment under Anglo-Irish rule, while the harp increasingly featured as an icon of Irish identity. Seven essays examine the Irish harp in the late eighteenth century as icon of and metaphor for revolution, and the politics of harping; the Irish harp in the creation of Irish literary nationalism through writers including Sydney Owenson and Thomas Moore; the early nineteenth-century patronage of harpers through the Belfast, Dublin and Drogheda Harp Societies; a positive reassessment of John Egan's adaptation of the Irish harp to contemporary conditions; the replacement of the 'winged-maiden' harp icon in the nineteenth century with the Brian Boru or Trinity College harp icon and its use by the Repeal and other national movements; and the final demise c.1880 of what O'Donnell clearly demonstrates had continued up to that time as an unbroken tradition of wire-strung harping. Ireland's Harp is a significant addition to Irish cultural studies. (Professor Barra Boydell was Professor in the Department of Music at NUI Maynooth and is co-editor of UCD Press publication Encyclopaedia of Music in Ireland (Dublin, 2013). --Barra Boydell

In her immensely scholarly but approachable new work, O'Donnell examines the major social, political and cultural changes in Ireland from 1770 to 1880 as the focus of her study on the Irish harp. --Irish Voice

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