Traditions and Trends
Bridging Tradition and Modernity: George Moore’s Short Story Cycle The Untilled Field
In his preface to the 1914 edition of The Untilled Field (1903), George Moore called the book ‘a landmark in Anglo-Irish literature, a new departure’.1 In a letter to Edmund Gosse, on the other hand, he described it as ‘a frontier book, between the new and the old style’.2 Although The Untilled Field is often regarded as a turning point in the development of the modern Irish short story, Moore’s appraisal of the transitional dimension of the volume appears to be the more accurate one. As Heather Ingman argues, The Untilled Field combines traditional and new techniques, as a result of which it may be more appropriate to see it as a transitional volume.3 With The Untilled Field generally considered a precursor of James Joyce’s Dubliners (1914), criticism has focused on Moore’s contribution to the birth of the modern short story. As a result, relatively little attention has been paid to the origins of Moore’s book. Moore, who wanted to contribute to the Gaelic Revival but had not mastered Irish, wrote The Untilled Field with the purpose of having it translated into Irish for students. Several of the stories were published in The New Ireland Review – in English and Irish versions – and in English and American magazines. Six of the stories were published in Gaelic translations in Dublin, under the title An t-Úr-Ghort, in 1902. The ← 85 | 86 → London publication of The Untilled Field followed in 1903.4 The Untilled Field is known to have been modelled on...
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