Thomas (James Bonner) Flanagan Critical Essays


(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

Thomas (James Bonner) Flanagan 1923–

American novelist, critic, and biographer.

Flanagan, whose four grandparents emigrated from Ireland to the United States, has a great interest in Irish history and literature. His nonfiction work The Irish Novelists: 1800–1850 demonstrates his mastery of both subjects. This critical study of five Irish novelists of the nineteenth century combines scholarship and creativity.

Flanagan's renown as a novelist derives from his critically acclaimed and popular historical novel, The Year of the French. This long, intricately plotted work recounts the abortive French-supported rebellion of Irish peasants against the British in 1798. It also draws parallels between the political and social problems of eighteenth-century Ireland and those of that country today. Flanagan's use of multiple narrative perspectives in The Year of the French has been both praised and faulted. Some critics believe that this technique makes the novel ponderous; while others hold that multiple points-of-view provide the reader with a sense of how the same event produces diverse effects. Most, however, praise Flanagan for presenting the events of the rebellion unsentimentally and thus "demythologizing" Irish history.

(See also Contemporary Authors, Vol. 108 and Dictionary of Literary Biography Yearbook: 1980.)