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Irish Autobiography

Stories of Self in the Narrative of a Nation


Claire Lynch

Ireland has passed through numerous identity crises in the last century, keeping the meaning of Irishness in constant flux. This book explores how diverse writers have positioned their life stories within the wider narrative of the nation’s development. Examining the wealth of autobiographical texts written by Irish writers in the twentieth century, including W.B. Yeats, Tomás O’Crohan, Frank O’Connor, Brendan Behan, Frank McCourt and Nuala O’Faolain, the study highlights the plurality of Irish identity and the main characteristics which typify the genre of Irish autobiography.
In charting the social and cultural history of Ireland through the first-hand accounts of the country’s most celebrated writers, the author also identifies important overlaps between fiction and memory, finds intersections with folklore and the short story, and draws out relationships within and between texts. The book repositions the important and often overlooked genre of Irish autobiography by highlighting its importance within both Irish Studies and the field of Autobiography and by opening up the ways in which lives can be written and read.


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Notes 187


Notes Introduction 1 Seamus Deane, ‘Autobiography and Memoirs, 1890–1980’ in Seamus Deane et al. (eds), The Field Day Anthology of Modern Irish Writing, 3 vols (Derry: Field Day, 1991), vol. 3, 380–383 (380). 2 Laura Marcus, Auto/Biographical Discourses: Theory, Criticism, Practice (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1994), 229. 3 Ailbhe Smyth, extract from Critical Survey, vol. 8: no. 2, 1996 in David Pierce (ed.), Irish Writing in the Twentieth Century: A Reader (Cork: Cork University Press, 2000), 1122. 4 Luke Gibbons, Transformations in Irish Culture (Cork: Cork University Press in association with Field Day, 1996), 10. 5 Gerry Smyth, The Novel & the Nation: Studies in the New Irish Fiction (London: Pluto, 1997), 3. Chapter One 1 Liam Harte (ed.), Modern Irish Autobiography: Self, Nation and Society (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 5. 2 Harte (ed.), Modern Irish Autobiography, 1. 3 James Olney, Autobiography, Essays Theoretical and Critical (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980) 4. 4 Olney, Autobiography, 4. 5 Seamus Deane, Celtic Revivals: Essays in Modern Irish Literature, 1880–1980 (London: Faber, 1985), 14. 6 R.F. Foster, The Irish Story: Telling Tales and Making it up in Ireland (London: Penguin, 2001), xi. 7 Linda Anderson, Autobiography (London: Routledge, 2001), 104. 188 Notes to Chapter One 8 E.G. Hughes, ‘Nation and Self: A Study of Modern Irish Autobiography on the Reasons for the Prevalence of Autobiographical Writing in Ireland’ (unpublished doctoral thesis, Queen’s University Belfast, 1998), 2. 9 Mary Evans, Missing Persons: The Impossibility of Auto/Biography (London: Routledge, 1999), 130. 10 Harte...

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