One of the most brilliant and controversial critics to emerge in Ireland in the twentieth century, Seamus Deane has produced a significant body of work that traces with insight and verve the development of modern Irish literature from the eighteenth century to the contemporary moment. This essay elucidates Deane's shifting conceptions of Irish writing and national culture as developed from his early works such as The French Revolution and Enlightenment in England, 1789–1832 and Celtic Revivals through the initial three volumes of The Field Day Anthology of Irish Writing up to later works such as Strange Country and Foreign Affections. Informed by a commitment to European and Irish republican values elaborated in the radical Enlightenment and animated by a sometimes bristling engagement with an Ireland transformed by the Troubles in the North and by the culture of late capitalism across the island, Deane's work constitutes an ambitious attempt to situate a peripheral society possessed of a remarkable literature within wider European and postcolonial vectors of reference. Given its conceptual subtlety and grand sweep, Deane's work merits careful attention not just from Irish scholars but from those interested in issues of Enlightenment and national culture, literature and late capitalism, and in the nature of critical intervention in the modern humanities more generally.

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