Introduction: The Idea of Excess
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Excess has only been addressed sporadically in modern Irish criticism and interpreted in conflicting ways. Sometimes it is regarded negatively as a crude stereotype of the Irish temperament. Sometimes critics admire it for transgressing Irish social norms and traditional conservative values. Michael McAteer considers these critical views before turning to Matthew Arnold’s idea of the excessive nature of the Celt as a point of origin for understanding excess in modern Irish writing, taking into consideration Oscar Wilde’s and W. B. Yeats’s revaluation of Arnold’s thought in the late nineteenth century. He argues that this revaluation marks the transition from Arnold’s specifically Celtic notion of excess to excess as a feature of the modern human condition.