Vol. 2: McCormack, W. J.

Type: Article

McCormack, W. J. ‘Vision and Revision in the Study of Eighteenth-Century Irish Parliamentary Rhetoric’, Eighteenth-century Ireland/Iris an dá chultúr, Vol. 2 (1987) .

This essay is a critical assessment of two articles published in volume one of Eighteenth-Century Ireland: ‘Swift and the Anglo-Irish Intellect’ (pp. 9-22) by Seamus Deane and ‘The Grattan Mystique’ (pp. 177-194) by Gerard O’Brien. Both authors have ‘an insufficiently critical approach to the mechanisms of eighteenth-century parliamentary rhetoric and its production in print.’ McCormack indicts O’Brien for failing to recognize that newspaper parliamentary reporting in eighteenth-century Ireland often went beyond informing its readers and was designed to propound ‘a particular ideological view of parliamentary function’; thus parliamentary reports ‘constituted a species of fiction’ and historians should not accept them uncritically or underestimate the value of other sources. Deane is criticised for ‘too generously dispersing across the whole eighteenth century a coinage – ‘protestant ascendancy’ – which can be observed in the process of its first minting many years after Swift’s death’. McCormack hopes his article will begin the systematic reappraisal of Irish cultural historiography which he believes is needed.