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The University of Hong Kong
Irish Orientalism from W. B. Yeats to Yan Ge

This talk examines representations of Asia and Asian characters in contemporary Irish writing, drawing on the discourse on Orientalism and other postcolonial theories. Orientalism in Irish studies has undergone multiple phases: from the Celtic-Oriental ties that stressed cross-colonial identification with Eastern countries as a way to bolster nationalist narratives during the Celtic Revival, to the comparison with new and futuristic, late capitalist East Asian “Tiger” societies from the 1990s to the present day. Irish Orientalism thus stands uneasily between traditional Anglo-European Orientalism, which continues to reproduce certain stereotypes of the Other, and anti-imperial agendas that challenge established colonial discourses. The talk deconstructs the Occident/Orient or West/East binary by focusing on the case of Irish literature, from canonical writers such as W. B. Yeats and Brian Friel to contemporary works by Colum McCann, Claire Keegan, Daniel O’Hara (short film), and Naoise Dolan. Finally, by introducing several short stories by Yan Ge, an established Chinese writer residing in Ireland, I want to offer a different perspective from the “Other” side. While differing from its British counterpart, Irish literature has often been complicit in producing and sustaining Orientalist images, especially in its representations of migrants. Yan Ge’s thematic and formal consideration of her status as an Asian outsider aims to dis-orient and re-orient Irish readers. By looking steadily back at the Orientalist gaze, the portrayals of cross-cultural encounters in Yan Ge’s short fiction help to create more equitable and more fruitful conversations regarding Ireland’s role in the global order and its changing relationship with Asia.


Moonyoung Hong is a full-time lecturer in the School of English at the University of Hong Kong. She specialises in Irish literature, with an M.Phil. in Irish Writing and a Ph.D. in English from Trinity College Dublin. Her research interests include modern drama, contemporary Irish theatre, cross-cultural theories, space and everyday life studies. She is currently working on converting her PhD thesis on Tom Murphy and everyday space into a monograph. She has published in The Yeats Journal of Korea, Études Irlandaises, Comparative Drama and Irish Studies Review (forthcoming 2023), and is editing a collection on the Irish Pub (Cork UP, 2023).

Zoom Details

Zoom link: https://hku.zoom.us/j/99640347641?pwd=U2pVRVJaR0ZuSFF5V1FHVUtJekdXdz09

Meeting ID: 996 4034 7641
Password: 812801