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Experiments with Realism in Irish Language Short Stories by Daithí Ó Muirí
Published June 24, 2020

Relying on Joseph McMinn’s statement that the connection between realist and non-realist fiction is not a hierarchical relationship, this essay maintains that realism in Irish language fiction is, and has always been, an energizing force for experimentation. This is nowhere more evident than in the work of writer Daithí Ó Muirí (1954-), a ...native English speaker now residing in an Irish speaking area in Ireland. Much of Ó Muirí’s work is experimental due to his use of allegory and fantasy, yet many of the stories remain rooted in the realities of the world, particularly in his representations of masculinities and in works concerning the impact of war, violence, and displacement on men’s lives. The essay examines Ó Muirí’s first three collections, Seacht Lá na Díleann (1998), Cogaí (2002), and Uaigheanna agus Scéalta Eile (2002), in which he explores subjects that are classically realistic: war, death, religion, and relationships between men and women. The essay explores how Ó Muirí’s work often combines realism and magic realism, and shows that Ó Muirí’s fiction provides a fresh if somewhat bleak narrative of 21st century realism in Irish language prose fiction.

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Drink and Alcohol Literature: Two Critical Perspectives
Published February 1, 2021

The essay discusses two contrasting critical perspectives on the intersection between drink/alcohol and literature, claiming that criticism concerning the literature of the British Isles (English, Scottish, and Irish authors’ work) is generally text-oriented, that is, targets literature per se and the way writers thematize drink, while critic...ism concentrating on the American literary scene focuses on the alcohol-dependence of writers, and/or the way their alcohol-dependence affects their work, or the way alcoholism is portrayed in literary works. Whereas the criticism on authors in the British Isles emphasizes conviviality as a key trait of the way drink/drinking is represented in literature, studies on American authors often highlight drinking alcohol as a pathology, a physical, mental, and social malfunction. Thus, the former can be labeled drink/drinking literature, and the latter can be framed as what Marcus Grants has dubbed “alcoholism literature.”  (WK)

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Competing Traditions: The Twentieth and Twenty-First Century Irish Literatures between Realism and Experimentation
Published June 24, 2020

  

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Re-Running the Rising: Centenary Stagings
Published June 24, 2020

Drawing on his experience as an Irish Times Theatre Awards judge through 2016, the author analyzes a range of shows relating to the Easter Rising produced in Irish theatre in that centenary year. The aim is to show their variety of styles, realistic and experimental, but also the political viewpoints, whether belonging to a traditional... nationalist historiography or its revisionist alternative. Some of the plays maintained the conservative representational dramaturgy so characteristic of much Irish drama, but more worked with dance, song, and video in theatrical mixed modes, including a radically innovative production of Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars at the Abbey Theatre. Site-specific shows sought to immerse audiences in the original experiences of the Rising, while the most formally experimental plays avoided direct representation altogether. The political positions were as varied as the theatrical styles from conventional nationalist hagiography to those which questioned the value and meaning of the Rising.

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Experimental Dramaturgy, Intellectual and Art-related Subjects in Irish Theatre
Published June 26, 2020

Book review:

Woodward, Guy, ed. Across the Boundaries: Talking about Thomas Kilroy. Dublin: Carysfort Press, 2014. 112 pages. ISBN 978-1-909325-51-7. Pbk. €25.00

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Irish Native Autobiography: Tomás O’Crohan’s The Islandman
Published June 24, 2020

The paper addresses Tomás O’Crohan’s The Islandman (1929) as a representative of Irish native autobiography. The genre, it is argued, best defines the specificity of O’Crohan’s work, since it well delineates the complexity of its creation process involving an author, an editor, and a translator. Furthermore, the reading of ...>The Islandman as Irish native autobiography sheds a new light on the text as capturing Walter Benjamin’s media shift from oral to written tradition observable at the beginning of the twentieth century. Tomás O’Crohan manages to converge the art of storytelling with a new genre of autobiography thanks to many foreign influences, especially Maxim Gorky’s life-narratives. Consequently, The Islandman, contrary to the traditional understanding of the work as purely Irish, thus free of any outside leverage, emerges as a cosmopolitan text which, similarly to other European literary works of the time, successfully adapts the oral heritage to a new form of autobiography.  

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John Williams’s Stoner and Literature as Dark Matter in the Age of Educational Managerialism
Published June 24, 2020

The tension between Bildung and more utility-oriented dimensions of education is nothing new. For instance, Friedrich Nietzsche addressed the issue in a series of lectures despising nineteenth-century tendencies to let education be controlled by external forces. The contemporary literature teacher may feel inclined to endorse some of N...ietzsche’s sentiments. What will remain of the subject of literature in the age of massification, learnification, and criterion-referenced teaching in secondary and tertiary education? Through an analysis of certain aspects of John Williams’s Stoner, the article considers a few central questions: why is the devoted literature teacher forced into a hypocritical position, pretending to do a set of stated things (learning outcomes), while actually doing (or wanting to do) something completely different? Is it not precisely what cannot be put into words that is the actual driving force of the study of literature? The article suggests that this Gordian knot cannot be untied and should not be cut, but also that the attempts to untie it are in themselves vitalizing forces that ought not to be neglected within literary studies and teaching. (JW)

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Rewriting History: Narrative Resistance and Poetic Justice in Martin McDonagh’s A Very Very Very Dark Matter
Published January 4, 2021

Martin McDonagh’s A Very Very Very Dark Matter (2018) explores how the stories of exploited people have been written out of history. The play includes several storytellers, and it both replicates and deviates from the details of numerous existing narratives, including McDonagh’s own plays. Set in 1857, the play imagines that Hans C...hristian Andersen’s fairy tales were written by a pygmy woman from the Belgian Congo who has traveled back in time; Hans calls her Marjory and keeps her in a box in his attic. Eventually Marjory writes herself out of the box and departs for Africa to prevent the colonization of her people. Dark Matter compels us to question the narratives about the past that have become embedded in our culture and to uncover the facts that official accounts have altered or suppressed; rewriting history is acceptable only in imaginative storytelling, as an act of poetic justice. (JL)

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Alternative Readings of J. M. Synge’s Drama Predicated on Archival Material
Published June 24, 2020

Book review:

Collins, Christopher. Theatre and Residual Culture: J. M. Synge and Pre-Christian Ireland. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016. 301 pages. Hb. ISBN 978-1-349-94871-0. €106.99.

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Dermot Healy, Resourceful Playwright
Published February 1, 2021

Book review:

Hopper, Keith, and Neil Murphy, eds. Dermot Healy: The Collected Plays. Victoria, TX: Dalkey Archive P, 2016. xxxiii + 583 pages. ISBN 978-1-56478-930-3. Pbk. $21.00/£15.00.

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The Aging of the “Youngest People in Europe”
Published June 28, 2020

Book review:

Ingman, Heather. Ageing in Irish Writing: Strangers to Themselves. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018. 209 pages. ISBN 978 3 319 96429-4. Hb. €74.89.

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Introduction
Published June 28, 2020

Introduction to the Special Section: Negotiating Aging and Ageism in English-Speaking Fiction and Theatre

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“Fun, disturbing and ultimately forgettable”? : Notes on the Royal Court Theatre Production of Martin McDonagh’s Hangmen
Published June 26, 2020

The essay compares the reflections of a translator on the text of Martin McDonagh’s latest play, Hangmen (2015), with the impact of its first production by the Royal Court Theatre in London. It considers the response of multiple reviewers and of the Royal Court and West End audiences and argues that while this may be the first work b...y McDonagh that features a serious concern—this being the practice of capital punishment and its effect on society—the Royal Court production unduly obscured this aspect of the drama by mostly playing it only for the laughs. (OP)

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Half-Formed Modernism: Eimear McBride’s A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing
Published June 24, 2020

This paper positions Eimear McBride’s novel A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing (2013) at the vanguard of a resurgent modernism in the 21st-century Irish novel, in the wake of the 2007-08 financial crash. It asserts the value of experimental literature to a country which has awoken from a dream of late capitalist prosperity into a sobering... confrontation with late capitalist crisis.
McBride’s novel reproduces certain generic characteristics of the historical realism which was the dominant literary mode of Celtic Tiger Ireland. However, it also innovates: McBride’s new, fragmentary adaptation of Joycean stream-of-consciousness navigates its familiar themes through the internal states of its traumatized protagonist.

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Nature (as) Language in the Poetry of Seán Lysaght
Published February 1, 2021

The article focuses on a selection of poems by the Irish poet Seán Lysaght to demonstrate that in his work, Lysaght looks to explore nature’s intricate design, its pre-human and pre-linguistic layers of significance through investigations of birds, arguing that rather than offering culturally or politically inflected images of wildlife and l...andscape, as Irish poets from W. B. Yeats through Patrick Kavanagh all the way to Seamus Heaney and Michael Longley have been wont to do, Lysaght sets the vast natural world, which eludes apprehension in language, against the modern world and its obsession with material productivity and pragmatic efficiency. This aspect of Lysaght’s poetry is discussed against the background of Heaney, Yeats, and William Wordsworth, who are shown to share some insights with Lysaght, but from whose influence he strives to steer away.  (WP)

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Doubling Dublin: Mimetic and Anti-Mimetic Use of Urban Space in Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds
Published June 24, 2020

The article examines the use of references to the topography of Dublin in mimetic and anti-mimetic sections of Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds (1939). It studies the three different layers of fiction that have been defined on the basis of their ontological status within the narrative. The article argues that references to actual ...Dublin locations serve as a means of building and then breaking the mimetic framework of the seemingly realistic descriptions that belong to the first two layers (“reality” and “fiction” within the novel). The strikingly anti-mimetic Western novel sections (“fiction within fiction”), which lack any credibility in their depiction of Dublin, can be seen as a radical rewriting of the urban space that does in fact have the actual city’s character at its core. O’Brien thus unsettles the conventions (and the readers’ expectations) and explores the possibilities of representing elements of the real world in fiction.

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Our Affairs from England
Published June 24, 2020

Book review:

Kiséry, András. Hamlet’s Moment. Drama and Political Knowledge in Early Modern England. New York, Oxford: Oxford UP, 2016. 340 pages. ISBN 9780198746201. Hb. £66.

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The Petrified Men and the Scarecrow: Substance, Body, and Self-image in Seamus Heaney’s Bog Poems
Published January 4, 2021

Seamus Heaney’s poetry was engaged with violence for decades. His artistic exploration of land and fossils revolved around the same questions: to what extent can a human being move himself away from an inherent “tribalism”? To what extent is identity inherited through history and what rights, responsibilities come with it? These questions... arose in the author's oeuvre when the horrors of civil war reached their peak in Northern Ireland. The issues of shared community not only played a significant role in the development of self-identification, they also meant the survival of the sectarian conflict. Starting with the first bog-poems, Heaney was keen on producing a mythology to serve identity, and sometimes allowed his political opinion to filter through the images of Stone Age remains from the bog. For scientists, the investigation of archeological finds means relying on methods such as the necessary carbon analysis and careful identification of evidence, as to who these bodies were, when they lived, what characterized their daily routines, and the times they lived in. The same findings, however, had a different impact on Heaney. He used the metaphor of the land of these ancient bodies, and of history, to engage with the question of identity, but criticism made him reconsider what position he should take on the morality of the given past society. At the same time the poet, who voluntarily shared common roots with these long-forgotten forbears, was the one who started deconstructing their moral heritage in the works written towards the end of his poetic oeuvre. In contrast to earlier poems on bog-bodies, “Tollund” from the 1996 collection, The Spirit Level, and “Tollund Man in Springtime” from 2006, reflect a forward-looking attitude in which Heaney left behind an apologist viewpoint for sectarian violence. (JP)

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"The Very Seeds of Fire”: Chris Lee’s The Map Maker’s Sorrow
Published June 26, 2020

Chris Lee’s The Map Maker’s Sorrow (1999), produced at the Abbey Theatre only six years after Ireland decriminalized suicide, proved prescient in focusing on this national health problem among the young. The very structure of the play mirrors the fragmentation and messy aftermath that suicide almost inevitably produces. The abrupt ...beginning, where a character that the audience does not know and cannot know kills himself, leaves the audience in a position similar to that of survivors who find a suicide. Drawing on the work of Ludwig Binswanger, Kay Renfield Jamison, and national studies of suicide the essay argues that young Jason’s suicide represents a direct challenge to life understood as an orderly progression from birth to death and as an attempt to deny the very premise of lived life itself. (DEM)

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In Memoriam: Sam Shepard
Published June 26, 2020

In Memoriam: Sam Shepard

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“If I Should Die”: Attitudes to the Dead Hero in British Poetry of the Great War
Published February 1, 2021

When we read the poems of the Great War today, we interpret them both as historical documents and as works of art. World War I poetry wished to open the readers’ eyes to the horror that they were unable to imagine in the home country. As a consequence, the representation of the victim position proved to be particularly important both in popul...ist texts (such as John McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields”) and in poems undermining the conventional idea of heroism (such as those by Charles Sorley, Wilfred Owen, Edmund Blunden). Furthermore, a comparison between two poems about war heroes, Rupert Brooke’s “The Soldier” and Yeats’s “An Irish Airman Foresees His Death” demonstrates the difference between war poetry and modernist literature. Yeats views and considers the problem of the dead hero from a distance, whereas Brooke represents his own situation from within. Both texts (although very different both in character and in artistic value) contribute to our better understanding of the war experience. (IDR)

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Utopian Horizons in Hungary
Published June 24, 2020

Book review:

Czigányik, Zsolt, ed. Utopian Horizons: Ideology, Politics, Literature. Budapest, New York: Central European UP, 2017. viii + 256 pages. ISBN 978-963-386-181-3. Hb. Npr.

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In Memoriam Tom Murphy (1935-2018)
Published February 1, 2021

    

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Larkin’s Poetics
Published February 1, 2021

Book review:

Rácz, István. Philip Larkin’s Poetics: Theory and Practice of an English Post-War Poet. Leiden and Boston: Brill Rodopi. 2016. 235 pages. ISBN 978-90-04-31106-0. Hb. €76.00.

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The Truth of Beauty and the Goodness of Chaos: Jim Clarke’s Nietzschean Burgess
Published June 24, 2020

Book review:

Clarke, Jim. The Aesthetics of Anthony Burgess: Fire of Words. Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. xviii + 303 pages. ISBN 978-3-319-66410-1. Hb. £49.29.

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