Modern Irish Literature Criticism: Fiction - Essay

Vivian Mercier

Robert Caswell (essay date 1967)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Irish Novel: Exile, Resignation, or Acceptance,” in Wascana Review, Vol. 2, No. 1, 1967, pp. 5-17.

[In the following essay, Caswell discusses the fiction of Brian Moore, Kate O'Brien, Frank O'Conner, and Brinsley MacNamara.]

It is a commonplace in the study of modern Irish literature that the Irish literary revival, with the somewhat doubtful exception of George Moore and with the singular exception of James Joyce, produced few novelists of note. Perhaps Joyce is sufficient for a multitude of novelists, but the fact of their scarcity is strange when we recall the plentitude of Irish poets, dramatists and short-story writers. However, between Moore's...

(The entire section is 6107 words.)

Maurice Harmon (essay date 1967)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Recent Irish Fiction,” in The Dublin Magazine, Vol. 6, No. 1, Spring, 1967, pp. 75-8.

[In the following essay, Harmon presents a brief overview of the Irish novelists Patrick Boyle, Edna O' Brien, John Broderick, Richard Power, and Andrew Ganly.]

So much attention has been given to the happy resurgence of poetry in the past ten years that the position of the Irish novel has almost escaped attention. Poets tend to gain recognition more easily, since their work appears in the national newspapers and in the little magazines. And it would almost seem that it is only when a novel runs foul of the censorship laws, is profaned by the hands of the customs...

(The entire section is 1534 words.)

Richard F. Peterson (essay date 1982)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Frank O'Connor and the Modern Irish Short Story,” in Modern Fiction Studies, Vol. 28, No. 1, Spring, 1982, pp. 53-67.

[In the following excerpt, Peterson compares and contrasts the short fiction of Frank O'Connor with the works of Mary Lavin and James Joyce.]

Frank O'Connor, one of Ireland's most prolific and successful short-story writers, has long been a major influence, through his critical writings, on efforts to describe and judge the modern Irish short story. In The Lonely Voice, his most influential book of criticism, O'Connor defines the short story “as a private art intended to satisfy the standards of the individual, solitary, critical...

(The entire section is 6963 words.)

Grattan Freyer (essay date 1983)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Change Naturally: The Fiction of O'Flaherty, O'Faolain, McGahern,” in Eire-Ireland, Vol. XVIII, No. 1, 1983, pp. 138-44.

[In the following essay, Freyer examines the fiction of Liam O'Flaherty, Sean O'Faolain, and John McGahern.]

The English upper classes have an irritatingly patronizing way of saying: “Of course, you Irish are always rebels.” But, if one looks at Irish fiction this century and compares it with other European literatures, one has to concede this is in a measure true. Whereas novels of the Resistance in France, or those of the “angry young men” in Britain were only passing phases in the literature of those countries, the novel of...

(The entire section is 3101 words.)

Klaus Lubbers (essay date 1985)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Irish Fiction: A Mirror for Specifics,” in Eire-Ireland, Vol. XX, No. 2, 1985, pp. 90-104.

[In the following essay, Lubbers detects similar themes in Irish fiction since James Joyce, focusing on works by such authors as Brian Moore, Frank O'Connor, and John McGahern.]

Irish fiction of the 19th century shows a considerable amount of continuity and homogeneity. Beginning with George Moore, a reorientation began that was part of the tremendous creative energy released by the cultural renaissance although only marginally inspired by it. Modern Irish fiction writers concentrated on materials almost entirely different from those that had attracted their...

(The entire section is 6069 words.)

James M. Cahalan (essay date 1988)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “New Voices: The Contemporary Novel,” in The Irish Novel: A Critical History, Twayne Publishers, 1988, pp. 261-303.

[In the following essay, Cahalan discusses the fiction of Benedict Kiely, Brian Moore, John McGahern, Aidan Higgins, John Banville, William Trevor, James Plunkett, Edna O'Brien, Janet McNeill, Iris Murdoch, Eilís Dillon, Julia O'Faolain, Jennifer Johnston, Michael Farrell, Walter Macken, Sam Hanna Bell, Anthony C. West, John Borderick, Richard Power, Thomas Kilroy, and Anthony Cronin, as well as several writers in the Irish language.]


During the last thirty or so years, an impressive growth in the...

(The entire section is 15454 words.)

Richard Kearney (essay date 1988)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Crisis of Fiction: Flann O'Brien, Francis Stuart, John Banville,” in Transitions: Narratives in Modern Irish Culture, Manchester University Press, 1988, pp. 83-100.

[In the following essay, Kearney discusses works by Flann O'Brien, Francis Stuart, and John Banville.]

What was to become of the Irish novel after Joyce and Beckett? How would it be possible to go on writing fiction once its basic narrative quest-structure had been radically overhauled by Ulysses and the Trilogy? The fact of the matter is that the majority of Irish novelists continued, as did the majority of novelists elsewhere, in the classical tradition of fiction-writing in...

(The entire section is 8113 words.)

Earl G. Ingersoll (essay date 1990)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Irish Jokes: A Lacanian Reading of Short Stories by James Joyce, Flann O'Brien, and Bryan MacMahon,” in Studies in Short Fiction, Vol. 27, No. 2, Spring, 1990, pp. 237-45.

[In the following essay, Ingersoll discusses humor in the works of James Joyce, Flann O' Brien, and Bryan MacMahon.]

Modern Irish literature has had its share of great poems, novels, and plays, but in terms of sheer bulk, it is the short story or the tale in which the Irish have excelled. Traditionally a culture that has offered few possibilities for action other than violence, Ireland has generated an inordinately large number of storytellers, in pubs and in print, for whom talking may...

(The entire section is 4445 words.)

M. Keith Booker (essay date 1991)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Bicycle and Descartes: Epistemology in the Fiction of Beckett and O'Brien,” in Eire-Ireland, Vol. XXVI, No. 1, 1991, pp. 76-94.

[In the following essay, Booker discusses epistemology in the works of Samuel Beckett and Flann O'Brien.]

A fascinating scene concludes Samuel Beckett's Murphy in which the old, crippled Mr. Kelly—a forerunner of later, more paradigmatic crippled Beckett “heroes” like Malone—flies his kite in the park. Mr. Kelly is a skillful flier, even from his wheelchair, and the kite reaches such heights that it disappears from view, giving its owner an opportunity to engage in some profound epistemological speculations:...

(The entire section is 7876 words.)

Rüdiger Imhof (essay date 1992)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “How It Is on the Fringes of Irish Fiction,” in Irish University Review, Vol. 22, No. 1, Spring/Summer, 1992, pp. 151-67.

[In the following essay, Imhof examines the fiction of Sean O'Faolain, Sebastian Barry, Dermot Bolger, Aidan Higgins, Kevin Kiely, Aidan Mathews, Brian McHale, and Robert McLiam Wilson.]

In Sean O'Faolain's story “The Faithless Wife”, the principal character reflects on the nature of Irish fiction and he comes up with this, not especially flattering verdict:

Irish fiction was a lot of nineteenth-century connerie about half-savage Brueghelesque peasants, or urban petits fonctionnaires...

(The entire section is 7363 words.)

Vera Kreilkamp (essay date 1998)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: “Reinventing a Form: Aidan Higgins and John Banville,” in The Anglo-Irish Novel and the Big House, Syracuse University Press, 1998, pp. 234-60.

[In the following excerpt, Kreilkamp discusses the “Big House” Irish novels of Aidan Higgins and John Banville.]

Among contemporary Irish novelists who write about the Big House, only Aidan Higgins and John Banville inherit the techniques and preoccupations of the experimental post-Joycean novel. Both dissolve the chronological sequences of realistic fiction, emphasizing traditional narrative far less than the exploration of individual consciousness. And both respond to and emerge from that breakdown of cultural...

(The entire section is 10278 words.)