Patrick Kavanaugh – Provincialism vs. Parochialism

Parochialism and provincialism are [direct] opposites. The provincial has no mind of his own; he does not trust what his eyes see until he has heard what the metropolis – towards which his eyes are turned – has to say on any subject. This runs through all activities.

 The parochial mentality on the other hand is never in any doubt about the social and artistic validity of his parish. All great civilizations are based on parochialism – Greek, Israelite, English.

 In Ireland we are inclined to be provincial not parochial, for it requires a great deal of courage to be parochial. When we do attempt having the courage of our parish we are inclined to go false and to play up to the larger parish on the other side of the Irish Sea. In recent times we have had two great Irish parishioners James Joyce and George Moore. They explained nothing. The public had either to come to them or stay in the dark. And the public did come. The English parishioner recognizes courage in another man’s parish.

Advising people not to be ashamed of having the courage of their remote parish, is not free from many dangers. There is always that element of bravado which takes pleasure in the notion that the potato-patch is the ultimate. To be parochial a man needs the right kind of sensitive courage and the right kind of sensitive humility.

 Parochialism is universal; it deals with the fundamentals.

Patrick Kavanaugh (h/t to Jeffrey Bilbro)

Provincialism in James Wood

Speaking of Fluellen in Shakespeare’s Henry V

“…There is something piquant about a man who is at once an omnivorous roamer of the world’s knowledge and literatures, and at the same time a little Welsh provincial. His monologue on how Monmouth resembles the classical city of Macedon is both funny and moving.

I tell you, captain, if you look in the maps of the worlds I warrant you shall find, in the comparisons between Monmouth and Macedon, that the situations, look you, is both alike. There is a river in Macedon, and there is also moreover a river in Monmouth.

“I still meet people like Fluellen; and when a garrulous guy on a train starts talking up his hometown, and says something like “we’ve got one of those”–shopping mall, opera house, violent bar–“in my town, too, you know,” you are apt to feel, as toward Fluellen, both mirth and an obscure kind of sympathy, since this kind of importuning provincialism is always paradoxical: the provincial simultaneously wants and does not want to communicate with you, simultaneously wants to remain a provincial and abolish his provincialism by linking himself with you.”

James Wood. “How Fiction Works.” p. 125. 2018.