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Reading the Contemporary Irish Novel 1987-2007

ISBN: 978-1-4443-3620-7
274 pages
January 2014, Wiley-Blackwell
Reading the Contemporary Irish Novel 1987-2007 (1444336207) cover image


Reading the Contemporary Irish Novel 1987–2007 is the authoritative guide to some of the most inventive and challenging fiction to emerge from Ireland in the last 25 years. Meticulously researched, it presents detailed interpretations of novels by some of Ireland’s most eminent writers.

  • This is the first text-focused critical survey of the Irish novel from 1987 to 2007, providing detailed readings of 11 seminal Irish novels
  • A timely and much needed text in a largely uncharted critical field
  • Provides detailed interpretations of individual novels by some of the country’s most critically celebrated writers, including Sebastian Barry, Roddy Doyle, Anne Enright, Patrick McCabe, John McGahern, Edna O’Brien and Colm Tóibín
  • Investigates the ways in which Irish novels have sought to deal with and reflect a changing Ireland
  • The fruit of many years reading, teaching and research on the subject by a leading and highly respected academic in the field
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgements ix

Introduction: Reading the Contemporary Irish Novel 1987–2007 1

1 In the FamilyWay: Roddy Doyle’s Barrytown Trilogy (1987–1991) 23

2 House Arrest: John McGahern’s Amongst Women (1990) 51

3 Malignant Shame: Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy (1992) 75

4 Uncertain Terms, Unstable Sands: Colm T´ oib´ýn’s The Heather Blazing (1992) 105

5 Unbearable Proximities:William Trevor’s Felicia’s Journey (1994) 127

6 History’s Hostages: Edna O’Brien’s House of Splendid Isolation (1994) 151

7 Shadows in the Air: Seamus Deane’s Reading in the Dark (1996) 173

8 The Politics of Pity: Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way (2005) 197

9 Mourning Remains Unresolved: Anne Enright’s The Gathering (2007) 217

Bibliography 243

Index 259

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Author Information

Liam Harte is Senior Lecturer in Irish and Modern Literature at the University of Manchester. He is the author or editor of seven books, including Contemporary Irish Fiction: Themes, Tropes, Theories (2000; co-edited with Michael Parker), Ireland Beyond Boundaries: Mapping Irish Studies in the Twenty-First Century (2007; co-edited with Yvonne Whelan) and Modern Irish Autobiography: Self, Nation and Society (2007). His The Literature of the Irish in Britain: Autobiography and Memoir, 1725–2001 (2009) was a Book of the Year in both the Times Literary Supplement and the Irish Independent, and appeared as a Palgrave Macmillan paperback in 2011.

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“In addition to developing intellectually bold arguments, Reading the Contemporary Irish Novel is also enjoyable to read – an enviable achievement for any academic book.  There is an ease to Harte’s style and a lightness of touch in the way he deals with an expansive range of socio-historical contexts that makes this book deserving of a broad readership beyond the walls of the university.”  (Irish Studies Review, 18 March 2015)

“It offers an excellent primer in each chapter that I can easily imagine being of great use not only to students of literature, but also to those of us engaged in the work of teaching and studying such works.”  (New Madrid, 1 October 2015)

“Nothing is more difficult for a critic than to excavate the meanings of the present cultural moment, but that is precisely what Liam Harte has done in his sensitive analysis of recent Irish novels. The result is a generous, open-hearted book in which analytic brilliance is combined with imaginative audacity.”
Declan Kiberd, University of Notre Dame

“In his brilliantly incisive and illuminating study, Liam Harte offers a superb critical appraisal of the most stirring and provocative works of Irish fiction in recent times. Subtly alert to the pervasive themes of history, memory and belonging, and always sensitive to the language, rhythm and form of individual works, Reading the Contemporary Irish Novel is an indispensable guide to the map of modern Irish fiction.” Stephen Regan, University of Durham

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