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Empire's WakePostcolonial Irish Writing and the Politics of Modern Literary Form$
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Mark Quigley

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780823245444

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: May 2013

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823245444.001.0001

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Sean O’Faoláin and the End of Republican Realism

Sean O’Faoláin and the End of Republican Realism

(p.65) Chapter Two Sean O’Faoláin and the End of Republican Realism
Empire's Wake

Mark Quigley

Fordham University Press

This chapter examines the early work and thought of Sean O’Faoláin who as a writer of fiction, criticism, biography and cultural and social commentary produced a volume of writing from the 1920s to the 1940s that largely defined the contours of Ireland’s early postcolonial literature and sought to chart a path for a generation of writers emerging in the shadow of Joyce and Yeats. Considering O’Faoláin’s early novels and historical biographies in concert with his role as editor of the crucially important Irish cultural review, The Bell, the chapter explores the rich complexity of the literary, political, and intellectual debates animating Irish literary magazines and cultural reviews during the 1930s and ‘40s. Challenging the standard critical account of this generation of Irish writers as aesthetically impoverished and retrograde, the chapter argues that O’Faoláin develops a strategically anachronistic realism that serves as a late modernist corrective to an excessive naturalist tendency he diagnoses in Joycean modernism. The chapter explores how O’Faoláin’s early writings illuminate how postcolonial modernism is shaped by the ongoing clash of institutional and insurgent nationalist expressions only to be re-shaped in turn by the new globalized power structures that emerge more prominently in the wake of World War II.

Keywords:   Realism, Naturalism, The Bell, Sean O’Faolain, James Joyce, Irish little magazines, Late modernism, Republicanism, 1930s Ireland, 1940s Ireland

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