Northern Irish Literature, 1975-2006 Volume 2: 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 second volume examines the political and cultural reconfigurations which frame the literary texts between 1975 and 2006, such as the hunger strikes of 1980-81, the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement of 1985, the growing dialogue between the SDLP and Sinn Fein, and increasing collaboration between British and Irish governments. It explores the quickenings in literature that accompanied the peace process, and alongside its discussion of the responses of high profile figures like Seamus Heaney, Medbh McGuckian, Michael Longley and Paul Muldoon to the changing political narrative, it attends to the work of less well-known authors like Deirdre Madden, Ruth Carr and Frank Ormsby, and to the emergence of a new generation of writers, such as Gary Mitchell and Sinead Morrissey. It demonstrates in particular how as the voices and perspectives of women have gained sustained attention since the 1980s, issues of gender have come increasingly to the fore in Northern Irish writing.

Reviews

‘…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

 

‘…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