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The Irish Short Story

Traditions and Trends

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Edited By Elke D'hoker and Stephanie Eggermont

Often hailed as a ‘national genre’, the short story has a long and distinguished tradition in Ireland and continues to fascinate readers and writers alike. Critical appreciation of the Irish short story, however, has laboured for too long under the normative conception of it as a realist form, used to depict quintessential truths about Ireland and Irish identity. This definition fails to do justice to the richness and variety of short stories published in Ireland since the 1850s. This collection aims to open up the critical debate on the Irish short story to the many different concerns, influences and innovations by which it has been formed. The essays gathered here consider the diverse national and international influences on the Irish short story and investigate its genealogy. They recover the short fiction of writers neglected in previous literary histories and highlight unexpected strands in the work of established writers. They scrutinize established traditions and use cutting-edge critical frameworks to discern new trends. Taken together, the essays contribute to a more encompassing and enabling view of the Irish short story as a hybrid, multivalent and highly flexible literary form, which is forever being reshaped to meet new insights, new influences and new realities.
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Loneliness and the Submerged Population: Frank O’Connor’s The Lonely Voice and Joyce’s ‘The Dead’

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MICHAEL O’SULLIVAN

Loneliness and the Submerged Population: Frank O’Connor’s The Lonely Voice and Joyce’s ‘The Dead’

Frank O’Connor’s The Lonely Voice was published by the World Publishing Company more than fifty years ago, in 1962, with two of its chapters appearing previously in the Kenyon Review. It is therefore timely that we return to one of Ireland’s pre-eminent short story writers in discussing the Irish short story. In The Lonely Voice Frank O’Connor argues that one of the characteristics that distinguishes the short story from the novel is its ‘intense awareness of human loneliness’.1 He also argues that in most short stories there is ‘no character with whom the reader can identify himself’ thereby extending this unique thematic concern with loneliness, or with a sense of disconnect, to formal concerns over how to understand the reader’s role in the short story. However, even though O’Connor privileges the short story as a ‘private art’2 in its mediation of loneliness, he also finds it speaking, for the first time in fiction, for the ‘Little Man’3 and, hence, for a ‘submerged population group’.4

Recent criticism would presumably rephrase this feature in terms of such notions as alterity and the subaltern. However, this chapter argues that we should not be too quick to translate O’Connor’s concerns into contemporary critical language that all too often aligns elements of whatever the ‘Little Man’ in fiction is taken to represent with politicized notions ← 105 | 106 → of marginalization. O’Connor’s depiction of personal...

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