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Ireland and the Fiction of Improvement$
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Helen O'Connell

Print publication date: 2006

Print ISBN-13: 9780199286461

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199286461.001.0001

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‘False Refinement’, Plain Speech and Improved Writing

‘False Refinement’, Plain Speech and Improved Writing

(p.24) 1 ‘False Refinement’, Plain Speech and Improved Writing
Ireland and the Fiction of Improvement

Helen O’connell

Oxford University Press

This chapter examines how improvement plainness was intended to offset the convoluted utterances of both oral and high literary cultures. The lengthy stories of oral tradition were to give way to the educational and enlightening narratives of improvement. The reforming tracts of Charles Bardin, Mary Leadbeater, and William Carleton represented fireside storytelling in order to supplant it. This chapter argues that the textual device of the fireside in the fiction of the period calls attention to the conventionality and novelistic nature of improvement discourse itself. It also shows how an emphasis on plainness was central to the articulation of modernization and progress in these tracts, but argues that the ‘plain’ was itself an utterly generic and conventionalized response.

Keywords:   Irish literature, improvement fiction, plainness, Ireland, Mary Leadbeater, William Carleton, Charles Bardin, peasantry, landowners, fireside

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