Following the collapse of the Roman Empire, higher learning was preserved in Ireland, in contrast to elsewhere in Europe during the Dark Ages. This led to a flowering of sculpture, jewelry, metalworking and manuscript illumination (including treasures such as the Book of Kells). The 20th century saw another cultural flowering: Ireland produced four winners of the Nobel Prize in Literature — George Bernard Shaw, W.B. Yeats, Samuel Beckett and Seamus Heaney — plus James Joyce, the father of literary modernism.

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