Introduction Irish Culture in a State of Becoming

  • Jennifer M. Jeffers


The 1990s was a boom period for the Irish novel as a group of young Irish novelists came to the fore to create an entirely new agenda for the genre of the novel. Young novelists, mostly in their thirties or younger, include Tom Lennon, Robert McLiam Wilson, Laura Harte, Joseph O’Connor, Emma Donoghue, Glenn Patterson, Anne Enright, and Kate O’Riordan. Born in the 1950s, Roddy Doyle and Patrick McCabe represent the “senior” class of this young group of novelists. Many of the novels produced in the 1990s are concerned with the body as it is linked to a grid of power that is partly preestablished and partly rapidly changing in contemporary Ireland. For several of these novels the demarcating line of identity—that perennial Irish problem—can be gauged at the basic level of sexual and gender identity in contrast to or in alliance with political, social, religious, or cultural norms. Also, judging from novels written in the last decade of the twentieth century, Irish identity is in large part a matter of economics (replacing the traditionally political) as the Republic of Ireland’s postmodern place in the Eurocommunity becomes more important than its postcoloniality. Perhaps one distinguishing characteristic of these novelists is their departure from themes long considered “Irish.” In The Secret World of the Irish Male, for example, Joseph O’Connor (born in 1963 and pop singer Sinead O’Connor’s younger brother) audaciously states that Irish literary history is of little concern to him: “[W]hen I started to write fiction myself, the fact of Joyce’s existence—or Wilde’s or Yeats’s or Synge’s for that matter—never bothered me much.”1


Irish Study Irish Woman Irish Society Power Matrix Irish Context 
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  1. 1.
    See Joseph O’Connor, The Secret World of the Irish Male (Mandarin, 1995), p. 146.Google Scholar

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© Jennifer M. Jeffers 2002

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  • Jennifer M. Jeffers

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