Irish modernism in an international frame: Thomas MacGreevy, Sean O'Faolain and Samuel Beckett in the 1930s.
In 1930s Ireland, modernist writing developed at a conjuncture of national and international influences. The second generation of Irish modernism responded to national culture in the context of international debates about literary form. The purpose of this thesis is to present a nuanced understanding of the relationship between Irish and European literary discourse in the work of Thomas MacGreevy, Sean O'Faolain and Samuel Beckett: three writers who formulated Irish writing within a self-consciously international frame. Drawing on recent critical approaches to modern Irish writing and on contemporary theories of modernism, this thesis argues that Irish writing in the 1930s reflected many of the debates and tensions in international modernism. In the first decades of independence, attitudes to literary form, to cultural nationalism, and to the role of the writer in the public sphere were being reshaped. These attitudes formed the basis of alternative formulations of Irish modernism. The three writers considered here approached the relationship between Ireland and Europe from different perspectives, and figured the possibilities of international influence on national literary culture in diverse ways. Consideration of the national and international networks of influence underlying the aesthetic projects of MacGreevy, O'Faolain and Beckett illuminates their 1930s writing, and has broader implications for the understanding of Irish literary culture. The first chapter argues that MacGreevy's critical writing formulated a national version of conservative modernism. MacGreevy combined Catholic and republican attitudes with a high modernist approach to the role of art in mass democracy. The second chapter focuses on O'Faolain's realist aesthetic in relation to contemporary debates about modernism and realism. O'Faolain's attitude to national culture developed from a conflict between artistic integrity and social responsibility which reflected tensions in both national and international literary discourse. The third chapter contextualises Beckett's 1930s fiction in the avant gardist elements of Irish literary culture, and argues that his aesthetic developed as a specifically national manifestation of late modernism.
AuthorsMoss, Rhiannon Sarah
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