Against the Despotism of Fact

Modernism, Capitalism, and the Irish Celt

By T. J. Boynton

Subjects: Nineteenth-century Studies, Twentieth- And Twenty-first-century Studies, Literary Criticism, Cultural Studies, English Literature
Series: SUNY series, Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century
Paperback : 9781438481807, 285 pages, July 2021
Hardcover : 9781438481814, 285 pages, February 2021

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Table of contents


Introduction: Celticism, Capitalism, and Transnational Modernism

Part I: British Celticism

1. Matthew Arnold, the Ontology of English Capitalism, and the Rebirth of Celtic Tragedy

2. The Uses of Irishness, I: British Imperial-Romantic Celticism

3. The Uses of Irishness, II: British Modernist Celticism

Part II: Irish Celticism

4. "A Nation of Imitators": Anticapitalisms of the Irish Revival, 1885–1910

5. "In Front of the Cracked Looking-Glass": Revivalist Modernism, the Irish Female Consumer, and the Colonial Spectacle

6. The Bathetic Muse: Irish Late Modernism

Conclusion: Post-Celticism

Works Cited

First comprehensive account of the figure of the Irish Celt in modern British and Irish literature.


Emerging at a moment of escalating colonial conflict between England and Ireland, the figure of the Irish Celt enjoyed a long and varied career in both English and Irish literature from the late Victorian era to World War II. While this figure assumes many forms and functions, T. J. Boynton argues that he is consistently cast as inherently resistant to capitalism. Beginning with an innovative reassessment of Matthew Arnold's The Study of Celtic Literature, from which the book also takes its title, Against the Despotism of Fact offers new readings of major works by writers such as Kipling, Conrad, Lawrence, Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett. In their writing, Boynton argues, the Irish Celt served as a transnational vehicle of modernist experimentation geared toward interrogating the imperial, social, and pop-cultural dimensions of capitalist modernity. Making a significant contribution to Irish studies, modernist studies, and postcolonial studies, Against the Despotism of Fact draws attention to not only the prevalence but also the critical potential of this fraught figure.

T. J. Boynton is Assistant Professor of English at Wichita State University.


"Against the Despotism of Fact is an exciting contribution to Irish literary studies, to the study of modernist literature and culture, to the study of postcolonial, materialist, and globalist theory, and it is also a major intervention in the study of a range of important writers, from J. M. Synge to Samuel Beckett. This is an exciting work, building on existing scholarship and research, that will be widely discussed, and cited for years to come. " — Enda Duffy, author of The Speed Handbook: Velocity, Pleasure, Modernism