Revolution and Evolution
Edited By John Strachan and Alison O'Malley-Younger
The book also examines change in the culture of the island of Ireland, from the development of the Irish historical novel in the nineteenth century, to ecology in contemporary Irish women’s poetry, to the present state of the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. Contemporary Irish authors examined include Roddy Doyle, Joseph O’Connor and Martin McDonagh.
Respectability against Ascendancy: The Banim Brothers and the Invention of the Irish Catholic Middle-Class Novel in the Age of O’Connell PATRICK MAUME 145
Respectability against Ascendancy: The Banim Brothers and the Invention of the Irish Catholic Middle-Class Novel in the Age of O’Connell Patrick Maume One of the major themes of twentieth-century Irish literature and social criticism was the critique and dismantling of a certain middle-class Cath- olic image of Irishness as epitomised by a form of pious small-town or medium-farmer domesticity, which was implicitly or explicitly claimed to encompass the whole nation, preserving it from the vices and social problems of less favoured peoples. This essay argues that an examination of the novels of the Banim brothers, Kilkenny-born novelists writing in the 1820s and 1830s, sheds light on the origins of this timeworn image in the O’Connell era. I will begin with a brief outline of the brothers’ lives, contrast previ- ous critical approaches with my own, outline the differences between John Banim as professional writer adapting metropolitan literary fashions and Michael as provincial social observer, discuss how the Banims portray Kil- kenny over several decades, and argue that the development of their late work is driven both by a shift in metropolitan taste towards Dickensian sentiment and by a desire to uphold a precarious middle-class Catholic ideal of modest domesticity against the residual forces of Ascendancy, both aristocratic and plebeian, and by the Gothic violence and criminal subcultures of the rural and urban poor. 146 Patrick Maume I Michael Banim was born in 1796 and John in 1798, both in Kilkenny city. Their father Michael Banim was a prosperous farmer-shopkeeper (he...
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