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Non-Violent Resistance

Irreverence in Irish Culture


Edited By Agnès Maillot, Jennifer Bruen and Jean-Philippe Imbert

Humour, by its very nature controversial, plays an important role in social interaction. With its power to question assumptions, it can be used a weapon of subversion, and its meaning and interpretation are embedded within the culture that generates them in complex ways. The scrutiny of Irish culture through the lens of humour is highly revealing, contributing to an alternative, and sometimes irreverent, reading of events. As John Updike wrote of Raymond Queneau’s witty re-imagining of the Easter Rising, humour can effectively expose «casual ambivalence».

This volume investigates the many ways in which writers, playwrights, politicians, historians, filmmakers, artists and activists have used irreverence and humour to look at aspects of Irish culture and explore the contradictions and shortcomings of the society in which they live.

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8 ‘Bringing the Big House Down’: Molly Keane and the Tradition of Irish Satire (Sylvie Mikowski)


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8 ‘Bringing the Big House Down’: Molly Keane and the Tradition of Irish Satire

Molly Keane was born Mary Nesta Skrine in Co Kildare in 1904 into a privileged Anglo-Irish Ascendancy family, which she herself described as ‘a rather serious hunting and fishing, church-going family’. She remembered her childhood as one of neglect and isolation; she received no formal education until the age of 14 and her parents showed her only, in her own words, ‘dreadful neglect’. She said she started writing her first novels under the pen-name M. J. Farrell at the age of 17 as a way of increasing her dress allowance, and explained she used a pseudonym because books and literature were not considered a healthy occupation in her milieu, especially for a woman. She met her husband Bobby Keane at a hunt ball and went to live with him in Co Waterford. Before her husband’s premature death, Molly had published ten novels and five plays, some of which were staged by Sir John Gielgud. But after she became a widow in charge of raising her two daughters, and perhaps also because one of her plays had received a savage review, she stopped writing for almost thirty years before a friend urged her to send one of her manuscripts to a publisher. The book was Good Behaviour, and was published in 1981, when Keane was already in her seventies; it was highly acclaimed, was shortlisted for the Booker...

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