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John Banville

Art and Authenticity


Eoghan Smith

This study explores the fiction of John Banville within a variety of cultural, political, ethical and philosophical contexts. Through thematic readings of the novels, Eoghan Smith examines the complexity of Banville’s view of the artwork and explores the novelist’s attraction and resistance to forms of authenticity, whether aesthetic, existential or ideological.
Emphasizing in particular the influence of Banville’s major Irish modernist precursor, Samuel Beckett, this book places the local elements of his writing alongside his wide-ranging literary and philosophical interests. Highlighting the evolving nature of Banville’s engagement with varieties of authenticity, it explores the art of failure and the failure of art, the power and politics of the contemporary imagination, and the ways in which this important contemporary writer continues to redefine the boundaries of Irish fiction.


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The support of Carlow College has been invaluable in aiding the publication of this book. I would like to acknowledge Mgr Caoimhín Ó Néill for his help and encouragement. I also thank Thomas McGrath for his advice and assistance. A special mention goes to Simon Workman for his friendship and discussions. I also thank the rest of my colleagues at Carlow College. Many thanks go to Emer Nolan of NUI Maynooth, to whom I owe a debt of gratitude for her guidance over the years. I would also like to men- tion Chris Morash and Oona Frawley, who helped me at various stages along the way, as did Colin Graham and Rónán McDonald. Thanks also to Deirdre Quinn and Michael Cronin for their friendship over the years. Mary Critchley and Eamon Maher were most helpful during the com- pletion of this project. I would especially like to single out Christabel Scaife for her patience and assistance. I also give very large thanks to Cormac Deane and to Aoife Webb. Thank you to Enda O’Doherty at the Dublin Review of Books. Finally, I reserve a special word of appreciation for my parents, and to Susan Ryan for her unfailing support.

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