A small island with fewer than five-and-a-half million people has produced four Nobel Prize-winners for Literature, two Booker Prize-winning novelists and a succession of writers whose books have stocked the libraries and bookshops of the world. Why do the Irish write so well? What were the conditions that made this possible? This is the starting-point for David Pierce's stimulating inquiry. Divided into three sections with two companion chapters in each, this work is an introduction to the field of modern Irish writing. The initial two chapters are concerned with defining contexts, the first to the presence of the Great Famine in modern Irish culture, the second to the impact of cultural nationalism. The middle section takes a fresh look at Yeats and the Easter Rising and casts new light on Joyce and colonialism with reference to the "English" game of cricket. The third section, anchored in two decades from opposing halves of the century, provides a wide-ranging survey of the whole period.
It explores the image of the West, the position of the North, the figure of de Valera, the sense of loss and recuperation of the self, the representation of the body and the issue of violence in Troubles fiction. In a carefully structured introduction, Pierce contextualizes the study in terms of stereotypes, language, history and culture. In the conclusion, he provides a reading of contemporary Irish fiction and verse in terms of cultural belatedness, and examines the important contribution of John McGahern.show more