John McGahern

Authority and vision

Željka Doljanin
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Máire Doyle
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John McGahern is one of those writers whose work continues to be appreciated across a range of readerships. As a writer who eschewed the notion of himself as 'artist' he addressed his task through a commitment to style, what he called the 'revelation of the personality through language'. McGahern's work began to receive critical attention only from when Denis Sampson's seminal study, Outstaring Nature's Eye: The Fiction of John McGahern was published in 1993. This book focuses on the physical landscape to show how the inadequacy of the State that emerged after 1922 is reflected in the characters' shifting relationship with the landscape, the connection has been made vulnerable through trauma and painful memory. It explores this sense of resentment and disillusionment in McGahern's novels, drawing parallels between the revolutionary memories and McGahern's own family experience. McGahern's All Over Ireland offers a number of fine stories, mostly set in Ireland, and dealing with distinctly Irish themes. He wrote a novel that is an example of openness, compassion and understanding for any form of strangeness. The vision of education and of the shaping of identity found in his writing is not an idiosyncratic one - it is consistent with much of the best thought within the tradition of liberal education. The book provides an intriguing comparison between McGahern and Flannery O'Connor, illustrating how diverse stories share an underlying current of brutality, demonstrating their respective authors' preoccupation with a human propensity towards evil.

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‘John McGahern: Authority and Vision is a publication that will undoubtedly appeal to students of literature and anyone with an interest in discovering that qualities that made McGahern one of Ireland's foremost prose writers of the second half of the twentieth century. The collection is a credit to both the indefatigable work of the editors and the vision of Manchester University Press in seeing the value and interest of literary essays when they are written to the high standard one encounters in this volume.'
Eamon Maher
The Irish Times
February 2018

‘This is an exceptional volume of essays in many ways. That the editors, Zeljka Doljanin and Maire Doyle, managed to bring together the work of some of the finest contemporary writers is impressive. This edited volume of essays pays tribute to McGahern while deeply enriching our understanding of the man, the writer and the work.
Professor Deirdre Raftery, UCD
Sunday Independent
August 2019

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