The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature / Edition 1

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By turns sacred or profane, mystical or earthy, scathingly satirical and modern or achingly nostalgic for the ever-receding past, the literature of Ireland has long entranced and entertained readers the world over. Now The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature provides a comprehensive and delightfully readable guide to the evolution and achievements of Irish writers and writing across sixteen tumultuous centuries, from fourth-century ogam writing etched on ancient stones, to the towering twentieth-century figures of Yeats, Joyce, and Beckett, to the bold new voices emerging today as Ireland enters a new era and a new century.
Written by a distinguished team of writers from Ireland and around the world, this remarkable Companion offers over 2,000 entries that provide insight into the intimate fusion of history, literature, and culture that distinguishes so much of Ireland's poetry, drama, and fiction. Unrivalled in scope, this superb volume encompasses writing in both the Irish language and in English, across the religious and political spectrums, by native Irish and Anglo-Irish writers and such outsiders as Londoner Edmund Spenser, who completed The Faerie Queen—and indeed most of his life's work—during his two decades in Ireland. In contrast to other, less complete references, the editors of this Companion seek always to show the complex and continuing influence of the Irish language on writers in English, and vice versa. And as befits a country where so many writers have not only been commentators and observers of history but also active participants in the nation's affairs, there are dozens of entries on important historical events that shaped the lives and fired the imaginations of the Irish, from the Battle of the Boyne and the Great Famine of the 1840s, to the Easter Uprising of 1916 and today's continuing conflicts and controversies. Hundreds of biographical entries range from the early bards and authors such as Adaman, the seventh century abbot and biographer of the Irish saint Colum Cille, to contemporary writers such as Seamus Heaney, Brian Friel, and Booker Prize-winning novelist Roddy Doyle. The myriad contributions of Ireland's women writers also are well-represented here, with entries on folklorist and dramatist Lady Gregory, co-founder of Ireland's world-renowned Abbey Theatre, and many others, including the novelists and short story writers Mary Lavin, Elizabeth Bowen, Julia O'Faolain, Edna O'Brien and Maeve Binchy, and contemporary poets Eilean Ni Chuilleanain, Nuala Ni Dhomnaill, and Rita Ann Higgins.
Whether readers are seeking a quick introduction to the mythic figures of Cu Chulainn and the sidh, or fairy folk, who haunt the pages of Yeats's early poems, a handy who's who to the Dublin of Swift, Joyce, or Behan, or an invitation into the theatrical worlds of J.M. Synge or Sean O'Casey, The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature is a wonderfully accessible reference and an indispensable research tool. It will be treasured not only by students and scholars of Irish writing and history, but by anyone seeking a more acute understanding of one of the world's most vibrant literary traditions.

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Editorial Reviews

Zom Zoms
Spanning 16 centuries of Irish literature and covering writing in Gaelic as well as English, this newest member of the Oxford companion series is a worthy complement to its sister publications: "The Oxford Companion to English Literature" ["RBB" Ja 1&15 1996] and "The Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales" 1986. Welch, an English professor at the University of Ulster at Coleraine, has done a superb job of coordinating the work of the more than 150 scholars who served as contributors to this guide Reflecting the diversity of Ireland's literary heritage from the bardic poets and Celtic sagas to twentieth-century authors like Brian Friel, Edna O'Brien, and Nuala NiDhomhnaill, the more than 2,000 unsigned entries cover writers, titles of major works, literary genres and motifs, folklore, mythology, periodicals, associations, and historical figures and events. Since Ireland's literature is inextricably intertwined with its religious and political differences, articles on Catholicism, Protestantism, Northern Ireland, the IRA, and Sinn Fein appear along with entries on literary subjects such as "Big House", "Metrics", and "Stage-Irishman". Events that have shaped or influenced Irish writers, such as the famine of the mid-nineteenth century and the Easter Rising of 1916, are also treated. Entries vary in length from a paragraph to more than four pages, with the longer articles treating topics of special literary significance, such as the Abbey Theatre, and major authors like Joyce, Shaw, and Yeats. Many entries conclude with brief references to additional sources In most respects, the articles are remarkably current. Entries on contemporary writers generally refer to publications through mid-1995, and the deaths of Brian Coffey and Joseph Tomelty in 1995 are noted. Although the announcement in October that Seamus Heaney had won the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature obviously came too late to be included, no such excuse can be offered for the article on Roddy Doyle, which does not indicate that his "Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha" was the recipient of the 1993 Booker Prize. Supplementing the dictionary portion are maps of Ireland and of downtown Dublin and a selective bibliography of secondary works. A chronology of historical events through 1994 is also provided. A chronology of major literary works and authors would have been a welcome feature "The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature" has the obvious advantage of being 15 years more up-to-date than Robert Hogan's "Dictionary of Irish Literature" Greenwood, 1979, and it contains more than twice as many entries as that work, which focused primarily on Anglo-Irish writers. However, Hogan is still useful for its primary bibliographies and its more extensive articles. A new edition of Hogan will be published in November. This excellent guide to the literature of the Emerald Isle also serves as an introduction to the rich history and culture of a land whose physical beauty masks the scars of its turbulent past. It is a valuable resource that belongs in most public and academic libraries.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780198661580
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 4/28/1996
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 648
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 1.66 (d)

Meet the Author

Robert Welch is Professor of English at the University of Ulster, at Coleraine. Bruce Stewart lectures in Anglo-Irish Literary History and Bibliography.

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