Northern Irish Literature, 1956-1975 Volume 1: The Imprint of History

The two volumes which make up Northern Irish Literature 1956-2006: The Imprint of History identify the contexts for literary production over the past fifty years, and address the troubled intersections where literature, history and politics meet. Chapters focus on a particular phase of the ‘Troubles’, offering detailed readings of both canonical and less-known texts by writers from different traditions and generations. Unlike existing studies, which are generally confined to a single author or genre, these volumes explore the diversity of Northern Irish literature and demonstrate how writers and texts continue to engage in enriching, insightful dialogue.

The first volume begins with the economic decline of the mid-1950s and identifies this, along with Britain’s policy of decolonisation and the growth of ecumenism, as a major factor in the subsequent conflict. The crisis within unionism coincided with a period of reconfiguration within the nationalist community. The book examines how these growing tensions were depicted in drama, fiction and poetry, and the different strategies deployed by writers in attempting to represent the accelerating political collapse, polarisation and violence. It celebrates their exemplary attempts at creating a literature able to confront and counter the viciousness and injustice abroad in the province, and change perceptual angles.


‘…weaves history and literature together in a compelling narrative. By locating the literature of Northern Ireland against the events and ideas of the time, [Parker] provides a uniquely informative analysis. Compelling, often disturbing, beautifully written.’ – Marianne Elliott, Professor of History and Director of the Institute of Irish Studies, University of Liverpool, UK.

‘Michael Parker’s impressive study bears the stamp of authority. He possesses the commanding overview and the jeweller’s eye for detail essential for a properly historical reading of the literature of Northern Ireland. Preoccupied not with moments or movements, but with how the marks of history punctuate the present, Parker charts the imprint of history across five decades. The readings he offers, neither footprints in the sand nor steps set in stone, signify an ongoing struggle – historical, literary and critical – with deep roots… This is an expert traversal of troubled terrain…astonishingly erudite, painstakingly researched, and beautifully executed.’ – Professor Willy Maley, School of English and Scottish Language and Literature, University of Glasgow, UK.

‘With his steady and straightforward modus operandi, his frequent insights and telling juxtapositions, Michael Parker proves an estimable guide to the vagaries, horrors and irrepressible creativity of the past fifty years in the North of Ireland’ – Patricia Craig, Times Literary Supplement.

‘…offers both a cultural history and a series of impeccably detailed readings of poetry, fiction and drama…By bringing this wide range of texts into constellation with each other, Parker significantly alters the map of Northern Irish literature as many people currently know it.’ – Professor Stephen Regan, Department of English Studies, University of Durham, UK

‘Throughout these two volumes, the work of eleven years of scholarship and writing, Parker’s consistent achievement is to illuminate ‘the imprint of history’ on literary works: he clarifies details of origins and reception, supplies new readings of the self-reflexive and intertextual features at work in many poems and plays, and thus creates an enriched perspective on Northern poetry, drama, and fiction from 1956 to 2006… Parker’s illuminating historical narrative and cogent critical analyses make a significant contribution to current discussions of Northern writing. His method of integrating published materials, archives, letters, and interviews to modify and contest the perspectives of published accounts yields a truly impressive work of scholarship… Parker’s work merits sustained attention from all who are engaged in remapping the important features of contemporary Irish literary and historical studies and in identifying the texts that mark the defining contours of Northern Irish sensibilities’. – Joseph Heininger, New Hibernia Review

‘Michael Parker has produced a work of lasting record that combines a wealth of contextual depth and colour, a helpful scholarly apparatus (including an extensive chronology) and detailed painstaking critical commentaries that will be of major benefit to specialists and new researchers alike’. – Scott Brewster, Irish Studies Review