Irish Fiction and Postmodern Doubt: An Analysis of the Epistemological Crisis in Modern Irish Fiction

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This study situates three contemporary Irish novelists, Aidan Higgins, John Banville and Neil Jordan in the context of Modernist and Postmodernist literature. In order to map how these writers respond to the problems of epistemological doubt, their work is positioned beside that of other writers like Rushdie, Nabokov, Calvino, Garcia-Marquez and Robbe-Grillet. In addition, the opening chapter outlines a working position on the meaning and significance of Postmodernism, as it pertains to literary fiction, with particular reference to the work of Brian McHale, Ihab Hassan, Patricia Waugh, David Harvey, Richard Kearney and David Lodge. Although firmly rooted in Irish literary studies, this work represents a departure from recent critical work in Irish literature in that it seeks, responding to the specificity of the fictionalized concerns of these writers, to contextualize the fictions of Higgins, Banville and Jordan within Irish and international literary traditions, rather than in an Irish historical or political framework.


“His analyses are witty, mordant, philosophically astute and they illustrate the extent to which every post-modern novel is in itself a sort of essay in criticism. By placing these works not just against a global backdrop of magic realist and postcolonial writing, Dr. Murphy also shows just why it makes sense to think of these writers as artists who have found in Ireland a test-case for the postmodern world.” – Prof. Declan Kiberd, Chair, Dept of Anglo-Irish Literature, National University of Ireland, Dublin

“Dr. Neil Murphy has written a very sound, penetrating and extremely informed study that represents a most valuable contribution to Irish ‘critical’ fiction as well as to the criticism on Banville, Higgins, and Jordan….As a result of his profound knowledge of the relevant studies by other critics, Dr. Murphy lays down the parameters for his investigation, explaining the phenomena of Modernism and Postmodernism and identifying Joyce’s and Beckett’s positions in the ‘critical’ tradition. (His comments on Beckett are among the best that I have encountered about that author.) ….The works of the three writers are analysed with profound insight and necessary circumspection and his Conclusion finely differentiates the individual efforts of Banville, Higgins, and Jordan. The study is an excellent piece of literary criticism.” – Prof. Dr. Rüdiger Imhof, University of Wuppertal, Germany

"A confident analysis that belies its first-book status." - Studies, An Irish Quarterly Review

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
1. Detecting the Boundaries
2. Aidan Higgins: The Fragility of Form
3. John Banville: Out of the Postmodern Abyss
4. Neil Jordan: Dissolving Selves
Bibliography; Index

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