Irish mantles, English nationalism: apparel and national identity in early modern English and Irish texts

Citation metadata

Author: John R. Ziegler
Date: Winter 2013
Publisher: University of Pennsylvania Press
Document Type: Critical essay; Essay
Length: 10,129 words
Lexile Measure: 1640L

Document controls

Main content

Abstract :

The Irish mantle--a type of long, heavy woolen cloak--came under regular attack by writers and lawmakers in Tudor and Stuart England. This article examines how a range of early modern English texts used the Irish mantle to establish and regulate the boundaries of national identity. The Irish were problematically similar to the English; most significantly, they lacked the clear physical differences that distinguished other colonial subjects. For writers such as Barnabe Rich, Edmund Spenser, John Davies, and Ben Jonson, the mantle takes on the function of signifying an essential "Irishness" and differentiating it from "Englishness." Relying on an easily changed garment to signal natural difference, however, rendered less stable the very distinctions in national identity that English writers attempted to create and maintain. Irish texts from the same period, including several of the Annala [Annals] and poems by Tadhg Dall O hUiginn and Dhaibhidh Ui Bhruadair, offer competing images of Irish dress and often demonstrate a greater comfort with hybrid identities and less concern with the idea of an Irish nation. English discourse on the mantle could help to create and police an English identity only by simultaneously creating an Irish nation against which to define itself.

Source Citation

Source Citation   

Gale Document Number: GALE|A328908635