Like Edinburgh, Dublin has a rich tradition as a centre of English-language literature. The city is the cultural centre of the Republic of Ireland’s cultural life. In 1991, Dublin was a European Capital of Culture, and it became a UNESCO City of Literature in 2010.
Dublin has no shortage of writers without whom English-language literature would simply not be the same. Arguably the most influential was James Joyce, known for his bold, iconoclastic works, including: Ulysses, Finnegans Wake, Dubliners and Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Dublin can also claim classic playwright, poet and onetime novelist Oscar Wilde; Bram Stoker, author of Dracula; and Jonathan Swift, author of Gulliver’s Travels. In the 20th century, Dublin could boast of no fewer than four laureates of the Nobel Prize in Literature: Samuel Beckett, Seamus Heaney, George Bernard Shaw and William Butler Yeats. Influential contemporary writers include playwright Conor McPherson and novelist, playwright and humorist Maeve Binchy, known for her depictions of rural Ireland. The city’s many playwrights were able to thrive with many theatres near them. In the 19th century, Dublin was also a centre of Gaelic literature during the revival it experienced then.
Evidence of Dublin’s literary heritage is the fact that the city offers one of the Anglosphere’s most prestigious literary prizes, the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, presented by Dublin City Public Libraries, whose net worth of €100,000 makes it one of the world’s richest such awards.
Approximately 50 publishing houses of all sorts call Dublin home. They include the O’Brien Press and Folens Publishers. New Island, the largest independent Irish publisher, is in County Dublin. The Irish subsidiary of Penguin Books is also located in Dublin. The city is also a hub of Gaelic-language publishers, such as An Gúm, which specialises in children’s literature.
Each year, Dublin City Council’s Public Libraries, which have 21 branches, record 2.7 million visits. They offer many events year-round, especially for young readers. The collections of the Dublin City Libraries and Archives contain material starting in 1171, while the Chester Beatty Library boasts of one of the world’s greatest collections of Islamic manuscripts and Asian art. Meanwhile, Andrew Carnegie founded the building of four Carnegie Libraries in Dublin.
The Dublin City Council’s Public Libraries also organise the Citywide Reading Campaign for Children. Each year, one book is selected, made available in all library branches and bookstores and is used to promote readership among children.
In addition to many libraries, Dublin also has no shortage of bookstores. Dating back to 1768, Hodges Figgis is the oldest bookstore in Ireland and considered to be one of the country’s best. Chapters Bookstore is the largest independent bookstore in Ireland. Naughtons is a bookstore specialising in rare and used books. To learn more about Dublin’s bookstores, check out this link, as well as this one.
It is difficult to imagine a city with more literary festivals than Dublin. Each year on June 16th, Bloomsday – which celebrates the day in the life of Leopold Bloom, the fictional protagonist of Joyce’s Ulysses, that is recounted in the novel – is celebrated. The James Joyce Centre of Dublin hosts many events. It has been expanded into a Bloomsweek. Other literary festivals of interest include: the Children’s Book Festival, Dublin Writers’ Festival and Mountains to Sea. Fans of Irish literature are encouraged to participate in the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl, which traces the footsteps of the city’s leading writers and the pubs most associated with them.
Aspiring Dublin writers can take advantage of the National Emerging Writer Programme, which features advice online and on DVDs from the leading Irish writers. Meanwhile, Trinity College features an M. Phil. programme in creative writing.
Dublin also promotes literacy. Dublin City’s Central Library and the National Adult Literacy Agency offer programmes that help adults with reading and writing difficulties. Meanwhile, the Dublin NextGen Literacy Programme helps children with reading.