21.6 x 13.8 cm. viii, 291 pp. 2006
Ulster Editions & Monographs Series (ISSN 0954-3392) volume 14
Ever since his student efforts thrilled Seamus Heaney in the early 1970s, Paul Muldoon has written poetry acclaimed for its brilliance and originality, its mischievousness, wit and complex artifice. Today, Muldoon is widely considered to be the greatest poet of his generation, not just in Ireland, but throughout the English-speaking world.
The twelve essays collected here chart the development of this unpredictable, innovative and challenging talent over the last thirty years. They offer a kaleidoscopic examination of Muldoon’s writings in the three genres of poetry, prose and drama, from a variety of perspectives, and without any polemical intention beyond that of celebrating his achievement.
Taken together, these essays attempt to map the continuity of Muldoon’s diverse and substantial oeuvre, but also to highlight its constant experimentalism; they demonstrate how difficult it is for us to know how seriously we should take anything Muldoon says, but alert us to the ways in which the playfulness and cleverness contribute to a profound ethical seriousness; they explore his complexly deconstructive technique to show how it represents a constant renewal of the self and of form; they show how the momentum for escape from the past is always contained within the recognition of the impossibility of escape; they examine the work as a means of both evasive self-protection from the world and self-expression of an intense emotional life; they calculate the ratios of scepticism and passion, unknowing and knowingness, which give the work its uniquely compelling power; they orientate the reader towards the Muldoonian home as always being located where it is not; they help us to see the way the writing folds back or feeds upon itself, and upon others’ writings, yet yearns for freedom and transcendence. They are confirmation of the validity of Heaney’s comment of nearly thirty years ago, when he said that Muldoon was the kind of writer who doesn’t offer us answers, but keep us alive in the middle of the question.
The contributors are (in order of the essays) Peter Denman, Richard York, Kathleen McCracken, Tim Kendall, Tim Hancock, Elmer Kennedy-Andrews, Stan Smith, Ivan Phillips, Clair Wills, Heather O’Donoghue, Guinn Batten, and Jerzy Jarniewicz. A number of these essays were originally delivered as lectures at the fifth Ulster Symposium at the University of Ulster at Coleraine in 2000. Also included is a transcript of the symposium interview that Neil Corcoran conducted with the poet.
Elmer Kennedy-Andrews is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Ulster at Coleraine. His books include The Poetry of Seamus Heaney: All the Realms of Whisper (1988); (editor) Seamus Heaney: A Collection of Critical Essays (1992); (editor) Contemporary Irish Poetry: A Collection of Critical Essays (1992); The Art of Brian Friel: Neither Dreams nor Reality (1995); The Poetry of Seamus Heaney; Icon Critical Guides (1998), (editor) Irish Fiction Since 1960 (2004), Fiction and the Northern Ireland Troubles: (De-) Constructing the North (2003), and Writing Home: Poetry and Place in Northern Ireland 1968-2008 (2009).More info →
21.6 x 13.8 cm. viii, 361 pp. 2002 Ulster Editions and Monographs series (ISSN 0954-3392) Volume 11
As the first major book-length study of the poetry of Derek Mahon, this volume of fourteen essays represents a long overdue account and assessment of one of the foremost living English-language poets not only in Irish poetry but world-wide.
The essays demonstrate the variety and complexity of Mahon’s work. It is a poetry of the ‘ironic conscience’, sceptical, sophisticated, urbane; a poetry of transit between centres and margins. It breaks with a nationalist or regionalist thematics yet remains engaged with questions of identity, ‘belonging’, tradition and history. It identifies with outsiders, mavericks, ‘the unreconciled, in their metaphysical pain’. It includes some of the best poems of the Troubles, yet reflects a basically metaphysical, universal frame of reference. It ranges widely in time and space, yet excels in the minute particularising of human experience and the phenomenal world. We are in ‘one place only’ but ‘We might be anywhere’. The poet moves from the formal intensities of the ‘well-made’ poem to experiment with mixed styles and more open, confessional and epistolary-style forms which incorporate more of the detritus of everyday life.
In considering the central issues of Mahon’s poetry – the relation between poetry and politics, the conflicting claims of art and nature, the representation of gender, the importance of place, the poet’s response to violence, despair and decadence, his characteristic techniques of displacement, ambiguity and intertextuality – these essays also represent a variety of critical approaches to the poetry. Some of this criticism is rooted in Mahon’s own critical and aesthetic vocabulary, which is largely reflective of canonical values and the New Critical ideal of the ‘well-made poem’ – an orthodoxy which his recent poetry challenges and enlarges. Other essayists construct their own critical terms and read ‘against the grain’ of the poetry to expose new possibilities of meaning. Thus, the volume includes New Critical ‘close reading’ of individual poems, examination of social, historical and literary contexts, consideration of Mahon as a translator, and the mobilisation of new critical paradigms such as ‘Men’s Studies’ and post-modernism.
The contributors are (in the order of the essays) Elmer Kennedy-Andrews, Edna Longley, Gerald Dawe, Bruce Stewart, Jerzy Jarniewicz, Eamonn Hughes, Michael Allen, Richard York, Hugh Haughton, Frank Sewell, John Goodby, Neil Corcoran, Stan Smith, and Patrick Crotty. A number of these essays were originally delivered as lectures at the fourth Ulster Symposium at the University of Ulster at Coleraine in 1998.
Elmer Kennedy-Andrews is Emeritus Professor of English at the University of Ulster at Coleraine. His books include The Poetry of Seamus Heaney: All the Realms of Whisper (1988); (editor) Seamus Heaney: A Collection of Critical Essays (1992); (editor) Contemporary Irish Poetry: A Collection of Critical Essays (1992); The Art of Brian Friel: Neither Dreams nor Reality (1995); The Poetry of Seamus Heaney; Icon Critical Guides (1998), (editor) Irish Fiction Since 1960 (2004), Fiction and the Northern Ireland Troubles: (De-) Constructing the North (2003), and Writing Home: Poetry and Place in Northern Ireland 1968-2008 (2009).
Front cover photograph: Derek Mahon, by John Minihan, courtesy of the photographer.
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This collection of fourteen substantial essays has been designed to map the landscape of Irish fiction since 1960, and to assess the extraordinary literary achievement of Irish novelists and short story writers, North and South of the border, over the last forty years.
As this volume demonstrates, Irish novelists and short story writers since 1960 have both continued and challenged conventional notions of Irish fiction; and they have contributed, in stimulating and inventive style, to the continuous examination of Irish identity, culture and politics, while making their fiction resonate with wide cultural, intellectual and human interest.
The book includes essays which focus on major individual writers - Samuel Beckett, Brian Moore, Jennifer Johnston, Maurice Leitch, John McGahern, Patrick McGinley and John Banville. There are also general essays of a more explicitly comparative and thematic nature covering such topics as the impact of modernisation on Irish fiction, the contemporary ‘Big House’ novel, the Protstant imagination, the ‘Troubles’ Novel, the importance of the past, childhood and women’s narratives, constructions of masculinity, and women short story writers. By closely analysing key texts, exploring the relationships between texts, and also between texts and their social, cultural and political contexts, and by examining significant themes and preoccupations, these essays offer valuable insights into the variety and complexity of modern Irish fiction from a range of viewpoints.
Introduction: The New Humanism. Elmer Kennedy-Andrews
Part 1: Thematic and Comparative Studies
‘Something important had changed’: Modernisation and Irish Fiction since 1960. Patrick Walsh
Ivy over Imperial Ireland: The Irish Big House Novel since 1960. Robin Marsh
‘Fabled by the Daughters of Memory’: History as Nightmare in Contemporary Irish Fiction. Robert Garratt
Shadows of the Gunmen: The Troubles Novel. Elmer Kennedy-Andrews
How I Achieved this Trick’: Representations of Masculinity in Contemporary Irish Fiction. Eamonn Hughes
To Say ‘I’: Female Identity in The Maid’s Tale and The Wig my Father Wore. Heidi Hansson
Part 2: Individual Author studies
Beckett after 1960: A Post-Humanist Context. Paul Davies
The Art of Science: Banville’s Doctor Copernicus. Declan Kiberd
‘A Shocking Libel on the People of Donegal’? The Novels of Patrick McGinley. John Goodby and Jo Furber
Form, Theme and Genre: The Importance of Catholics in Brian Moore’s Work. Kathleen Devine
The Remains of Protestantism in Maurice Leitch’s Fiction. Barry Sloan
Jennifer Johnston: Tremors of Memory. Richard York
‘All Toppers’: Children in the Fiction of John McGahern. Patrick Crotty