Haunted English explores the role of language in colonization and decolonization by examining how Anglo-Celtic modernists W. B. Yeats, Hugh MacDiarmid, and Marianne Moore "de-Anglicize" their literary vernaculars. Laura O'Connor demonstrates how the poets’ struggles with and through the colonial tongue are discernible in their signature styles, using aspects of those styles to theorize the dynamics of linguistic imperialism—as both a distinct process and an integral part of cultural imperialism.
O'Connor argues that the advance of the English Pale and the accompanying translation of the receding Gaelic culture into a romanticized Celtic Fringe represents multilingual British culture as if it were exclusively English-speaking and yet registers, on a subliminal level, some of the cultural losses entailed by English-only Anglicization. Taking the fin-de-siècle movements of the Gaelic revival and the Irish Literary Renaissance as her point of departure, O'Connor examines the effort to undo cultural cringe through language and literary activism.
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