EN3604 Week 10: "A people who were satisfied with frugal comfort"? Nostalgia and prudery in the mid-century


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Week 10 slides for students studying EN3604: Writing Ireland at Brunel University.

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  • The son of a police officer and a school teacher, McGahern grew up in Leitrim, midwest Ireland, which eventually became his home and the milieu for much of his writing. He gained an English degree from University College Dublin, then qualified as a teacher, teaching at a national school in Dublin. While he was taking a sabbatical as a result of winning an Arts Council fellowship for The Barracks (which was removed from the local library in his village), The Dark was banned by the Irish board of censorship, and he was told not to resume his teaching position. He defied the instruction, resumed his job and was dismissed on the instructions of the Catholic Archbishop of Dublin, John Charles McQuaid.
  • EN3604 Week 10: "A people who were satisfied with frugal comfort"? Nostalgia and prudery in the mid-century

    1. 1. Writing IrelandWeek 10: “A people who were satisfied with frugal comfort”?: Nostalgia & Prudery in the Mid-Century
    2. 2. John McGahern (1934-2006)Read more at:http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/2006/mar/31/guardianobituaries.bookshttp://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2002/jan/05/fiction.books
    3. 3. “The semi-autobiographical nature of many Irish novelsmay remind us that autobiography itself has an importantplace in Anglo-Irish Literature. Many writers have writtenautobiographies, memoirs, reminiscences, orrecollections – the term used varies – and there are timeswhen autobiography reads like a novel of revenge.”Roger Joseph McHugh and Maurice Harmon, ShortHistory of Anglo-Irish Literature from Its Origins to thePresent Day (Dublin, 1982), p.285.
    4. 4. “There was no running water then,other than in streams or rivers, noelectricity, no TV, very few radios,and when newspapers were boughtthey were shared between houses.”McGahern, Memoir, p.16
    5. 5. “A somewhat condescending backward look at anallegedly more innocent time, the barely credibleprecursor of the much more accelerated here andnow, and on the other hand asappropriating, endorsing and promoting images andideas, which, by being represented as simple andtraditional, function as a means of resisting themodernising present.”O’Brien in Harte, Modern Irish Autobiography, p.234.
    6. 6. “In that country, individual thought andspeech were discouraged. Its moralclimate can be glimpsed in the warningcatch phrases: a shut mouth catches noflies; think what you say but don’t say whatyou think; the less you say, the more you’llhear. By 1950, against the whole spirit ofthe 1916 Proclamation, the State hadbecome a theocracy in all but name.”McGahern, Memoir, p.210.
    7. 7. “Over many days and months, gradually, afantastical idea formed. Why take on anysingle life – a priest, a soldier, teacher,doctor, airman – if a writer could create allthese people far more vividly? In that onelife of the mind, the writer could live manylives and all of life. I had not even thevaguest idea how books came into being,but the dream took hold, and held.”McGahern, Memoir, p.205.
    8. 8. “My father said he loved oranges then, and whenhe knew he was going to be married he bought twodozen oranges in Galway and went to sit on a parkbench and ate them all. He felt he would never beable to afford oranges again once he was married.In those first years his fears couldn’t have beenmuch realized other than in his imagination. Mymother’s salary was higher than his.”McGahern, Memoir, p.57.
    9. 9. Kate O’Brien (1897-1974) Read more at: http://www.tcd.ie/longroomhub/digital- atlas/writers/kate-obrien/ http://www.jstor.org/pss/3509330
    10. 10. Next Week Week 11: A Special Role?: Irish Women as Image and Idea