Edited by Gregory A. Schirmer
21.6 x 13.8 cm. Irish Literary Studies series (ISSN 0140-895X) volume 40
Austin Clarke is widely regarded as one of 20th-century Ireland's most important poets. In this selection of nearly fifty essays and reviews written over Clarke's long career, he demonstrates that he is an astute and provocative literary critic as well.
Having grown up in Dublin when the excitement of the Irish Literary Revival was still running high, Clarke knew many of the principal figures of that movement personally, and his readings of Yeats, Joyce, Synge, O'Casey, Lady Gregory, George Moore, and others, enjoy the advantages of an insider's point of view. Moreover, committed in his own poetry to the basic assumption that fuelled the Literary Revival – that the most productive course for Irish literature lay in the direction not of England but of Ireland – Clarke in his criticism provides a way of understanding, and judging, the Revival's major writers in terms of their relationships to Ireland's rich literary and cultural traditions. At the same time, these essays call attention to a number of distinctly Irish, but often overlooked, writers working on the margins of the revival.
As Yeats observed more than once, the Irish, for all the contributions that they have made to modern fiction, poetry, and drama, have fallen somewhat short in the genre of literary criticism. Austin Clarke's essays and reviews, many of which were written under a pseudonym and so not attributed to Clarke for years, go a long way towards filling that gap.
A selection of Clarke's writings on Yeats is followed by one on other Irish writers and the Irish Literary Revival, and on Modern English and American literature. Included as an appendix is an exhaustive list of Clarke's literary criticism, mostly in periodicals, including over 400 anonymous reviews written for the Times Literary Supplement.
Gregory A.Schirmer is the author of The Poetry of Austin Clarke and William Trevor: A Study of His Fiction, and has written widely on a variety of other modern Irish writers. He is Professor of English at the University of Mississippi.