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Cambridge University Press
Online publication date:
February 2018
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Book description

A History of Irish Autobiography is the first ever critical survey of autobiographical self-representation in Ireland from its recoverable beginnings to the twenty-first century. The book draws on a wealth of original scholarship by leading experts to provide an authoritative examination of autobiographical writing in the English and Irish languages. Beginning with a comprehensive overview of autobiography theory and criticism in Ireland, the History guides the reader through seventeen centuries of Irish achievement in autobiography, a category that incorporates diverse literary forms, from religious tracts and travelogues to letters, diaries, and online journals. This ambitious book is rich in insight. Chapters are structured around key subgenres, themes, texts, and practitioners, each featuring a guide to recommended further reading. The volume's extensive coverage is complemented by a detailed chronology of Irish autobiography from the fifth century to the contemporary era, the first of its kind to be published.


‘The Irish genius for life-writing, anguished, resilient and invariably eloquent, is captured here in all its stunning variety. Ranging from St Patrick’s Confessio to contemporary travel, abuse and celebrity memoirs and the fictional self-portraits that revolutionized modern literature, this absorbing History traces the indelible features of the Irish autobiographical imaginary: the religious, political and emotional turmoil; the defiant humour; the struggle against entrenched forces that oppress or mock the self, including Irishness itself.’

Maria DiBattista - Charles Barnwell Straut Class of 1923 Professor of English, Princeton University

'Liam Harte, in his lucid introduction to A History of Irish Autobiography, points out that this genre has been underexplored and undervalued by scholars despite its pervasive influence on Irish literature, most notably on James Joyce’s Ulysses. Harte’s multi-authored volume more than makes up for this critical neglect. Reaching back to St Patrick and forward to the recent torrent of Irish memoirs about child abuse, this History offers the most comprehensive and readable overview to date of autobiographical writing in Ireland, making a compelling case for the intrinsic value of the genre and its multiple ramifications.'

Maud Ellmann - Randy L. and Melvin R. Berlin Professor of the Development of the Novel in English, University of Chicago

'… not only a good book that should be read by everyone who wants to know more about Irish history and literature, but also by the researchers interested in philology, history, religion and philosophy. The pleasant and uniform stile of the text and the scientific skills used, important qualities of this book should surely be part of each good library that is concerned with this topic.'

Iuliu-Marius Morariu Source: Astra Salvensis

'A History of Irish Autobiography … provides a valuable introduction to the topic. It is as wide-ranging as the editor’s twenty-five contributors can make it … [the] book also comes complete with a chronology of notable works from c.450 to 2016.'

Patricia Craig Source: The Times Literary Supplement

'Harte (Univ. of Manchester, UK) gathers 24 essays that together present a rich, multivalenced portrait of the evolution of Irish life writing from c. 450 to 2016, from St. Patrick’s Confessio to the digital age. … Harte's collection should interest not only scholars of Irish literature and culture but also students of autobiography in general and those interested in the relationship between place and identity. Recommended.'

M. F. McClure Source: Choice

'Liam Harte’s most recent edited collection, A History of Irish Autobiography, cuts an impressive critical swathe through Irish life writing in its multifarious forms, from Saint Patrick’s Confessio to medieval Celtic poetic narratives to contemporary digital forms of Irish autobiography.'

Taura Napier Source: Biography

'Spanning seventeen centuries of life writing, this is a wonderful, wide-ranging introduction to the field, with twenty-five chapters covering oral narratives, letters, folklore, diaries, memoirs, autobiographies, and autobiographical novels. Harte’s introduction clearly delineates the main trends in the scholarship of Irish life writing. With a helpful select chronology at the beginning of the book and a comprehensive introduction outlining major theoretical trends, this is essential reading for any life-writing scholar.’

Muireann Leech Source: Oxford Bibliographies

‘A History of Irish Autobiography is a wide-ranging and critically engaged interdisciplinary publication. It is accessible and readable, giving it an appeal to a wider range of readersbeyond the academy. As editor, Harte makes an excellent case for the potential of further readings of Irish autobiography to open up exciting and rich avenues of scholarly enquiry. … It is easy to see the potential for myriad branches of enquiry to flourish from the foundation of this collection.’

Rebecca d’Arcy Source: Irish Studies Review

‘… had Harte made available only the invaluable timeline of Irish autobiography that begins the book, A History of Irish Autobiography would have been enormously helpful to scholars. On the whole, this anthology is an authoritative and essential volume for Irish studies scholars in multiple fields … I predict that Irish studies scholars will look back on the publication of this volume as a catalyst for a great many rich and long-lived scholarly conversations.’

Jane Elizabeth Dougherty Source: Journal of British Studies

‘… impressively comprehensive survey of autobiographical prose writing in Ireland … The editor Liam Harte provides an intelligently argued introduction to the critical history of this genre and to the collection of engaging essays that he has assembled here.’

Emer Nolan Source: James Joyce Quarterly

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