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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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Frank O’Connor’s 1920s Cultural Criticism and the Poetic Realist Short Story

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In a private letter to Sean Hendrick in 1925, Frank O’Connor wrote with the intention of seeking support ‘in a matter of pure necessity’ and asked his friend to write to the editor of the Irish Statesman under an assumed name. O’Connor and Geoffrey Phibbs were attacking the ‘literary language of our Dublin friends’ and he wanted Hendrick’s help to ‘dispose of the Irish Literary Renaissance in a suitably undignified manner’. Ironically, in the same letter O’Connor mentioned he was holding on to a copy of Ulysses for Hendrick as he was ‘afraid to send it through the post’.1 Though O’Connor was primarily engaged with the cultural debates that were taking place in ← 149 | 150 → the pages of the Irish Statesman, particularly the issue of re-Gaelicization and its impact on Ireland’s literature, the letter also reveals the aspiring writer’s own anxiety of influence concerning his immediate Irish literary predecessors. Caught between his two father-figures – writers Daniel Corkery and George Russell (AE), who had positioned themselves on opposing sides of the re-Gaelicization debate – and eager to distance his writing from both the romanticism of the Revival and the experimentalism of the modernist movement, O’Connor’s epistolary machinations in the 1920s formed part of a concerted effort to carve out his own literary philosophy. It is commonplace at this stage of course to situate O’Connor’s notions within a framework of disenchantment with Romantic Ireland and with the ascendant aesthetics of modernism, in conjunction with an implication that in the mid-twentieth-century Irish...

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