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Breaking the Mould

Literary Representations of Irish Catholicism

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Eamon Maher and Eugene O'Brien

Catholicism has played a central role in Irish society for centuries. It is sometimes perceived in a negative light, being associated with repression, antiquated morality and a warped view of sexuality. However, there are also the positive aspects that Catholicism brought to bear on Irish culture, such as the beauty of its rituals, education and health care, or concern for the poor and the underprivileged. Whatever their experience of Catholicism, writers of a certain generation could not escape its impact on their lives, an impact which is pervasive in the literature they produced.
This study, containing twelve chapters written by a range of distinguished literary experts and emerging scholars, explores in a systematic manner the cross-fertilisation between Catholicism and Irish/Irish-American literature written in English. The figures addressed in the book include James Joyce, Maud Gonne, Constance Markievicz, Kate O’Brien, Edwin O’Connor, Brian Moore, John McGahern, Seamus Heaney, Paul Durcan, Vincent Carroll and Brian Friel. This book will serve to underline the complex relationship between creative writers and the once all-powerful religious Establishment.

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EAMON MAHER Issues of Faith in Selected Fiction by Brian Moore (1921–1999) 125

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Eamon Maher Issues of Faith in Selected Fiction by Brian Moore (1921–1999) Born in Belfast in 1921, Brian Moore spent the vast majority of his adult life in Canada and the USA. In a career that spanned more than four decades, he published twenty novels and won numerous literary accolades (The Doctor’s Wife and The Colour of Blood were both nominated for the Booker Prize in the 1970s and 1980s respectively), in addition to having a number of his novels (most notably The Lonely Passion of Judith Hearne, The Luck of Ginger Cof fey, Catholics and Black Robe) made into films. He is generally accepted as having been a talented storyteller, as well as someone with a keen understanding of the female psyche. When you are described, as Moore was, by no less a literary giant than Graham Greene, as ‘my favourite living novelist’, there is a natural tendency for the reading public to take you seri- ously. There is also a temptation to assume Catholicism plays a significant role in your work, given Greene’s own fascination with this topic. Sometimes, because of the accessibility of his novels, Moore’s skill as a wordsmith is underestimated. The connection with Graham Greene is interesting because of the propensity of both writers to tease out the issue of faith or unfaith in their protagonists, to seize on the moment when cracks begin to appear in their belief system. In an interview with Joe O’Connor in 1995, Moore stated: Belief is an obsession...

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