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Chapter 13 - Essayism in Contemporary Ireland

from Part Three - Forms and Practices

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 September 2020

Paige Reynolds
Affiliation:
College of the Holy Cross, Massachusetts
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Summary

This chapter proposes that the fostering of nonfiction by literary magazines including gorse and the Dublin Review has encouraged a number of writers to refine their nonfiction to a sophisticated literary form, something that might be described as “essayism,” following Brian Dillon’s 2017 book of the same name. Dillon describes essayism as “A form that would instruct, seduce and mystify in equal measure,” and “Not the practice merely of the form, but an attitude to the form – to its spirit of adventure and its unfinished nature – and towards much else.” In this chapter, I propose that essayism is an apt form in which to record the cultural expansiveness and orientation beyond Irish history or national boundaries in this particular strand of contemporary Irish writing. Dillon is something of a pioneer of essayism, and this chapter considers his writing in some detail, before reflecting on more recent works by Kevin Breathnach, Nathan O’Donnell, and Niamh Campbell, writers who take the form further than Dillon in certain respects, to include sex and the vulnerable body, humor, mockery and bathos, politics, and anger.

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The New Irish Studies , pp. 228 - 243
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2020

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