ACIS Logo Tales of Transition: Irish Local Colour Fiction, 1893-1915.

Local colour fiction, a genre which recorded the vernacular, customs and daily life of a specific region (Snell 1998), has traditionally been identified with conservatism, and the urge to preserve traditions in the face of national standardisation and the “forces of modernity” (Donovan 2010). While this is certainly valid in view of the hostility to innovation, veneration of folklore and idealization of rural communities that mark such writings (Felton 2007; Litvack & Hooper 2000), a close look at Irish local colour fiction published during the Literary Revival and the run-up to the Easter Rising reveals a more complex picture. These narratives can be regarded as tales of transition, which record Irish rural localities as spaces of infrastructural and societal transformations that are represented as inevitable and even desirable.

This paper will analyse how local colour stories from 1893-1915 mediate and even embrace the transitions of technological advancement, cosmopolitanism and shifts in societal hierarchies. Discussing texts by Shan Bullock, Julia M. Crotty, Charlotte O’Connor Eccles, Joseph Guinan, George Moore, Seamus O’Kelly and Gertrude O’Reilly, I will address two issues: first, the ways in which these stories negotiate spatial reconfigurations of the local, due to new transportation and communication structures and emigration. Second, how these narratives register societal evolutions in relation to Catholicism, gender and class. The final part of the paper will address how these texts‚ through republication, the incorporation of prefaces and visual images‚ often functioned as media of transition connecting homeland and diasporic audiences through transnational publication networks.