The publication of this long-awaited book raises the issues of the function of feminist recovery and re-interpretation of texts. The first three volumes of the Field Day Anthology were not simply a reaction to the traditional canon: they questioned the whole notion of literary canons and a universal standard of literary greatness. Literary canons and historical traditions have lost the power of consensus in the last two decades and have become areas of cultural conflict and transformation. The fact that the issue of gender was not acknowledged in the first three volumes eludes to the difficulty involved in such a post-modern version of cultural history. The particular challenge to the editors of Volumes IV and V was to radically exceed the agenda set by the earlier volumes.
Eleven years in the making, harnessing the skills and expertise of dozens of scholars, this book is without doubt one of the most important publishing events in Ireland for many years. The two volumes cover a period from 600AD to the end of the twentieth century and provide a unique resource for the study of Irish society from the perspective of Irish women's writing. Offering a truly interdisciplinary approach, this anthology exposes preconceptions about Ireland, women, writing and history. Texts covering the fields of literature, journalism, history and criticism, as well as legal, medical, theological and scientific writing in the English and Irish languages provide an unrivalled range of sources for scholars and students. Oral traditions are also examined and transcribed, and many translations of Irish language texts in particular are published for the first time. These volumes, while they do not complete a map of Irish history, seek to put existing maps into questions.
As with the first three volumes, bio-bibliographies of writers cited are a significant feature of these volumes. Both are also fully cross-referenced with the earlier volumes.
(The Field Day Anthology of Irish Literature Vol. 1 - 3 remains available as well, also priced at 250.00 Euro.)
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