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14 - Contemporary Irish fiction

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  28 January 2007

John Wilson Foster
Affiliation:
University of British Columbia, Vancouver
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Summary

The post-national novel

Since the mid-1980s, the rapid transformation of the Republic of Ireland's domestic and international profile has been accompanied by a heightened political engagement in Irish fiction. With a confidence bolstered by the 1990 election to the Irish presidency of a female reformist lawyer, Mary Robinson, the Irish began to face up to their position as modern Europeans who had 'not so much solved as shelved the problem of creating a liberal nationalism'. Where political culture led, writers followed, and in the publishing boom of the 1990s, the Irish novel repeatedly highlighted the institutional and ideological failings of the country, tracing the halting progress of Ireland's cultural, sexual and economic evolution, and foregrounding its voices of dissent. The works categorised by critic Gerry Smyth as the 'New Irish Fiction' were distinguished by a sociological purpose, which, with a few noteworthy exceptions, bypassed philosophical abstraction. 'Less of an intellectual and more of an artisan', wrote Smyth, 'the new Irish novelist is concerned to narrate the nation as it has been and is, rather than how it should be or might have been'.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2006

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