The Novel and the Short Story in Ireland: Readership, Society and Fiction, 1922-1965

Halpen, A
(2016) The Novel and the Short Story in Ireland: Readership, Society and Fiction, 1922-1965. Doctor of Philosophy thesis, University of Liverpool.

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This thesis considers the novel and the short story in the decades following the achievement of Irish independence from Britain in 1922. During these years, many Irish practitioners of the short story achieved both national and international acclaim, such that 'the Irish Short Story' was recognised as virtually a discrete genre. Writers and critics debated why Irish fiction-writers could have such success in the short story, but not similar success with their novels. Henry James had noticed a similar situation in the United |States of America in the early nineteenth century. James decided the problem was that America's society was still forming - that the society was too 'thin' to support successful novel-writing. Irish writers and critics applied his arguments to the newly-independent Ireland, concluding that Irish society was indeed the explanation. Irish society was depicted as so unstructured and fragmented that it was inimical to the novel but nurtured the short story. Ireland was described variously: "broken and insecure" (Colm Tóibín), "often bigoted, cowardly, philistine and spiritually crippled" (John McGahern) and marked by "inward-looking stagnation" (Dermot Bolger). This study examines the validity of these assertions about Irish society, considering whether day-to-day life in Ireland was so exceptionally different to other contemporary states where the novel did prosper. The conclusion from the evidence is that Ireland was different but not unique. One chapter examines literacy and the reading traditions in Ireland, and it is clear that there was a skilled audience for the novels and an effective book trade. The novel in Ireland is discussed and three case studies (Elizabeth Bowen, Kate O'Brien and Liam O'Flaherty) are discussed. The study concludes with the confirmation, through two case studies (Séan O'Faolain and Frank O'Connor), that the short story continued to be widely acclaimed and widely practised by many Irish writers. The conclusion reached is that Irish society was not as popularly depicted nor was it exceptional. It was a matter of writers' talents not society's failings.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy)
Divisions: Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences
Depositing User: Symplectic Admin
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2016 08:06
Last Modified: 26 Apr 2022 12:20
DOI: 10.17638/03003406