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At the rise of the Tudor age, England began to form a national identity. With that sense of self came the beginnings of the colonialist notion of the “other." Ireland, however, proved a most difficult other because it was so closely linked, both culturally and geographically, to England. Ireland's colonial position was especially complex because of the political, religious, and ethnic heritage it shared with England. Andrew Murphy asserts that the Irish were seen not as absolute but as “proximate" others. As a result, English writing about Ireland was a problematic process, since standard colonial stereotypes never quite fit the Irish. But the Irish Sea Betwixt Us examines the English view of the “imperfect" other by looking at Ireland through works by Spenser, Jonson, and Shakespeare. Murphy also considers a broad range of materials from the Renaissance period, including journals, pamphlets, histories, and state papers.

"But the Irish Sea Betwixt Us not only analyzes specific representations of Ireland with well-informed insight, but constructs a plausible method of context for its analysis by introducing the notion of the 'proximate' to qualify the polarity if same and other that is so dominant in the cultural study of colonialism."—David Lee Miller

"Irish Studies has developed in such interesting ways because boundaries between disciplines are constantly being crossed: Murphy's work is exemplary in its synthesis of literary, historical, and postcolonial concerns."—Elizabeth Cullingford

"A long-overdue corrective to bipolar representations of English colonialism in Ireland. . . . It is clearly written, thoroughly researched, relevant to a broad range of early-modern literature, and by current standards, well-published and affordable. There could be no better place for students or scholars new to the subject of Ireland in the Renaissance to begin."—Spencer Newsletter

"Murphy's lucid and thought-provoking book contributes to the rapidly expanding literature on the British question in the early modern period."—Times Literary Supplement

Publication Date



The University Press of Kentucky

Place of Publication

Lexington, KY






Shakespeare, Edmund Spenser, Ben Jonson, Early modern English literature, Ireland in literature, National identity


Literature in English, British Isles

But the Irish Sea Betwixt Us: Ireland, Colonialism, and Renaissance Literature
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