Ireland, Migration and Return Migration

BookIreland, Migration and Return Migration

Ireland, Migration and Return Migration

The “Returned Yank” in the Cultural Imagination, 1952 to present

Liverpool English Texts and Studies, 73


March 8th, 2019



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Drawing on historical, literary and cultural studies perspectives, this book examines the phenomenon of the “Returned Yank” in the cultural imagination, taking as its point of departure the most exhaustively discussed Returned Yank narrative, The Quiet Man (dir. John Ford, 1952). Often dismissed as a figure that embodies the sentimentality and nostalgia of Irish America writ large, this study argues that the Returned Yank’s role in the Irish cultural imagination is much more varied and complex than this simplistic construction allows. Throughout the twentieth century and into the twenty-first, s/he has been widely discussed in broadcast and print media, and depicted in plays, novels, short stories and films. The imagined figure of the Returned Yank has been the driving impetus behind some of Ireland's most well-known touristic endeavours and festivals. In the form of U.S. Presidential visits, s/he has repeatedly been the catalyst for questions surrounding Irish identity. Most significantly, s/he has been mobilised as an arbiter in one of the most important debates in post-Independence Ireland: should Ireland remain a "traditional" society or should it seek to modernise? His/her repeated appearances in Irish literature and culture after 1952 – in remarkably heterogeneous, often very sophisticated ways – refute claims of the “aesthetic caution” of Irish writers, dramatists and filmmakers responding to the tradition/modernity debate.

'An incisive and impressively contextualized study of the trope of "the Returned Yank" in Irish culture. This fascinating and outstanding book will make an invaluable and timely contribution to Irish and American Studies, as well as to diaspora studies more widely.'
Dr Tony Murray, Director of the Irish Studies Centre at London Metropolitan University

'Extremely commendable in its scope and ambition, this book offers a valuable contribution to Irish cultural studies, in particular to research on the complex relationship between "tradition" and "modernity" in Irish culture. It fills a genuine gap in existing scholarship, and its sustained analysis across several decades and multiple forms of representation is especially impressive, as it allows the reader to track a complex and historically-informed narrative arc for the "Returned Yank" figure.'
Dr Stephanie Rains, Senior Lecturer in the Department of Media Studies, Maynooth University


'Sinéad Moynihan’s Ireland, Migration and Return Migration is an impressively wide-ranging and insightful study of migration to and from the United States in Irish literature, film, and culture. This book pushes beyond simplistic models of deracination, exile or the émigré, to think about the recurring nature of migration and return migration, and raises questions about decolonization, neo-colonialism, and the nature of “modern” Ireland both before and after the Celtic Tiger. Moynihan's work interrogates gendered mythologies about maternity and return, and similarly reworks notions of return in relation to literary forebears and genres. She combines an impressive range of cultural sources with nuanced close readings in an important and timely contribution to Irish Studies.'
2019 ACIS Michael J. Durkan Prize

Author Information

Sinéad Moynihan is Associate Professor in American and Atlantic Literatures at the University of Exeter. She is author of “Other People’s Diasporas”: Negotiating Race in Contemporary Irish and Irish-American Culture (2013) and Passing into the Present: Contemporary American Fiction of Racial and Gender Passing (2010).

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
List of Figures6
Introduction: ‘The Meanest Form of Animal’? The Returned Yank in the Cultural Imagination9
1. ‘Quiet Men’: Film and Filmmaking in Returned Yank Fictions of the Troubles51
2. ‘Mother Macree ad nauseam: Maternity, Modernity and the Female Returned Yank93
3. Erin’s Acres: The Returned Yank, Property Disputes and the Rise and Fall of the Irish Economy139
4. ‘The Secret Dotted Line’: Return, Roots Journeys and Irish Literary Genealogies179
Coda: ‘We Are Where We Are’: Mythologies of Return and the Post-Celtic Tiger Moment227
Works Cited257