In this issue of Critical Survey we present a selection of essays which demonstrate a range of critical approaches to a variety of material within Anglo-Irish writing. The recalcitrant traditionalism that previously marked this arena has long gone, replaced now by a broadly analytical approach. Likewise, the traditionally established and highly selective, mostly male canon of Anglo-Irish writing has been replaced by a more inclusive arena and these articles represent the diversity of scholarship and research across this expanded area. One of the most significant changes within Anglo-Irish criticism in the last decade has been in the volume of attention given to women writers. Several essays here focus on women’s writing, recognising Irish women writers’ legitimate inclusion across a range of genres. Kathy Cremin examines the disparity between Irish women’s increased opportunities in terms of determining their own lives and the elisions and ambivalences regarding these at the heart of Patricia Scanlan’s best-selling fiction. Helen Kidd explores the particular poetic strategies of three of Ireland’s leading women poets, Naula Ní Dhomhnaill, Eileán Ní Chuilleanain and Eavan Boland. Mary King couples the plays of J. M. Synge and one of Ireland’s leading contemporary playwrights, Marina Carr, in a timely exploration of the treatment of ‘the other’ in Irish drama.
A Reading of Flann O'Brien's At Swim Two Birds
The publication of Declan Kiberd’s Inventing Ireland: The Literature of the Modern Nation (1995) was widely praised and embraced enthusiastically by critics, teachers and students and its impact has already been recognised as influencing recent criticism where scholars have been quick to apply Kiberd’s approach to often fruitful ends. This essay is one of many indebted to his pioneering work, employing Kiberd’s thesis on the centrality of issues of identity in Irish writing. Kiberd claims that the enterprise of inventing Ireland’s and Irish identity has historically been varied, depending on the source of the project and the proclivities of the proponents. Inventing or inverting established, colonial or romanticised ideas of Ireland and the Irish are central concerns of many Irish writers whose work has not hitherto been considered in relation to this engagement nor recognised to contain this agenda. Acknowledging that Irish writing is not confined to this preoccupation alone, Kiberd claims that much of Ireland’s classic modern literature can be read as being engaged in this endeavour, an approach which leads to innovative and sometimes revelatory interpretations. In this essay I will apply Kiberd’s contemporary analysis to a long established classic of Irish writing, Flann O’Brien’s At Swim Two Birds, in a reading which outlines O’Brien’s insightful engagement with issues of identity and which also accounts for the book’s hitherto puzzling aspects.
Responses to Nuala O'Faolain's Are You Somebody?
Literary history might identify the 1990s as the decade of the memoir, as a period that witnessed a prodigious outpouring of sombre narratives of grim beginnings overcome in individual triumphs, or of scandalous escapades intimately exposed. However entertaining or shocking, few will be memorable, their highly personal recollections remaining pertinent to the lives of the authors alone. Publishing successes are often due to word of mouth recommendations as, for example, in the recent success of Lorna Sage’s excellent autobiography Bad Blood. Even in such cases we can claim that the writing is, as it were, consumed in a quiet way where its charms are celebrated in a low level, personalised propaganda which eventually leads to a more public recognition. Reviewers and publicity machines can play their part in the success of a book but we seldom find a situation where readers’ written responses amount to a collective and influential embrace which propels a publication into further public prominence.
Dennis Brown, Anna Birch, Eibhlín Evans, and Andrew Maunder
Wyndham Lewis: Painter and Writer Paul Edwards (New Haven and London: Yale University Press, 2000), ISBN 0–300–08209–6, hardback £40
The Routledge Reader in Politics and Performance, edited by Lizbeth Goodman with Jane de Gay (London: Routledge, 2000), ISBN 0–415–17473–2 paperback £15.99
Seamus Heaney Andrew Murphy (Tavistock: Northcote House, 1996, 2nd Edition, 2000). ISBN 0 7463 09627 paperback £8.99
Women’s Gothic: From Clara Reeve to Mary Shelley E. J. Clery (Tavistock: Northcote House, 2000), ISBN 0 7463 0872 8 paperback £9.99
Eibhlín Evans, Lisa Hopkins, Mary Summers, John Turner, and Andrew Varney
Notes on contributors
Kathy Cremin, Marcella Edwards, Eibhlín Evans, Helen Kidd, Mary King, Richard Kirkland, and Steven Matthews
Notes on contributors