This book examines the historical formation of ideas about sexuality in modern Irish culture. It analyses the history of sexuality in Ireland and the Catholic Church's regulation of Irish sexuality from the mid-nineteenth to the late twentieth century. It focuses on the study of a literary genre, the Bildungsroman and its significance in twentieth-century Irish writing.
The emergence of Irish studies in the 1980s took place in the context of economic recession and bitterly contested social change in the South and a worsening, bloody war in the North. Irish literary studies has never been interested in affirming, projecting or protecting 'Irish difference' but in analysing the complex historical processes through which ideas about Irish difference have been discursively produced, circulated and resisted. At a symposium, held at NUI Maynooth in June 2012, examining the future of Irish studies in the wake of the 2008 crash, Heather Laird argued that while the global crisis is clearly economic and political it is also a crisis of narrative. Thinking about the future of Irish studies invariably meant considering the past of Irish studies, and Laird was one of several contributors to note that the intellectual project had its beginnings in an earlier period of economic and political crisis.