How the Irish Saved Civilization — Introduction to a Theme

Published by Twigg on 2014-05-05

Thomas Cahill’s How the Irish Saved Civilization is the cornerstone of his Hinges of History series. As I continue to build time-lines in the wiki portion of this site, it is necessary to have an anchor to attach the line. Cahill establishes the connection between Ireland and the “old world.” He also quite briefly mentions the presence of Celtic peoples in America. Upon this I shall build a new structure in the main part of the wiki.

For now I would like to quote a passage in which Cahill describes the Irish attitude toward literature about one hundred years after the death of St. Patrick:

These were happy human beings, occasionally waspish, but normally filled with delight at the tasks their fate had set for them. They did not see themselves as drones. Rather, they engaged the text they were working on, tried to comprehend it after their fashion, and, if possible, add to it, even improve on it. In this dazzling new culture, a book was not an isolated document on a dusty shelf; book truly spoke to book, and writer to scribe, and scribe to reader, from one generation to the next. These books were, as we would say in today’s jargon, open, interfacing, and intertextual–glorious literary smorgasbords in which the scribe often tried to include a bit of everything, from every era, language, and style known to him. No one would see their like again till James Joyce would write Ulysses.

Here is hoping that you find just as intertextual as our Irish heroes that saved civilization.


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