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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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What Happened to Literary Modernism in the Irish-Language Short Story?

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The Irish language’s encounters with literary modernism is a complicated subject, involving an irregular and non-linear development; it is largely still imperfectly understood and characterized by a variety, rather than a uniformity of responses. This essay attempts to sketch the outlines of those encounters as they pertain to the short story genre. Among the challenges facing authors in this period (1900 to 1950) was the need to negotiate a slippery path between the polar opposites of cosmopolitan high modernism and vernacular, regional, dialectical literature in addition to striving to represent forms of identity that accommodated elements of both national belonging and cosmopolitan individualism. For those authors who came to the Irish language as a central tenet of cultural nationalism, their patriotism often led them to produce popular, accessible, plot-driven texts for the masses, designed to increase literacy and expand the language’s generic scope. But modernism, like modern art in general, is unpopular not accidentally but by intent. Máirtín Ó Cadhain’s contemptuous assessment of the Irish-language short story in 1969 rebuked the genre for what he perceived to be its paltry psychological advancement since the work of Pádraic Ó Conaire in the first two decades of the century. Traditional accounts of the Irish-language short story distinguish between native-speaker authors – Gaeltacht born and raised − and urban learners − Galltacht born who acquired the language − and such surveys focus on the modern versus traditional thematic concerns found in their works. This essay proceeds from ← 121 | 122 → the observation that existing...

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