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The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature [Hardcover]

Robert Welch

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Book Description

Nov. 1 1991 0198661584 978-0198661580
The literature of Ireland displays an exceptional richness and diversity - whether in Irish or English, by native Irish and Anglo-Irish writers or by outsiders like Edmund Spenser whose works were deeply imbued with the country in which he lived and wrote. In over 2,000 entries, the Companion to Irish Literature surveys the Irish literary landscape across some sixteen centuries, describing its features and landmarks.

Entries range from ogam writing, developed in the 4th century, to the fiction, poetry, and drama of the l990s; and from Cu Chulainn to James Joyce. There are accounts of authors as early as Adomnan, 7th century Abbot of Iona, up to contemporary writers such as Roddy Doyle, Brian Friel, Seamus Heaney, and Edna O'Brien. Individual entries are provided for all major works, from Tain Bo Cuailnge - the Ulster saga reflecting the Celtic Iron Age - to Swift's Gulliver's Travels, Edgeworth's Castle Rackrent, O Cadhain's Cre na Cille, and Banville's The Book of Evidence.

The Companion also illuminates the historical contexts of these writers, and the events which sometimes directly inspired them - the Famine of 1845-8, which provided a theme for novelists, poets, and memoirists from William Carleton to Patrick Kavanagh and Peadar O Laoghaire; the founding of the Abbey Theatre and its impact on playwrights such as J. M. Synge and Padraic Colum; the Easter Rising that stirred Yeats to the `terrible beauty' of `Easter 1916'. It offers a wealth of information on general topics, ranging from the stage Irishman to Catholicism, Protestantism, the Irish language, and university education in Ireland; and on genres such as annals, bardic poetry, and folksong. The majority of entries include a succinct bibliography, and the volume also provides a chronology and maps.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 640 pages
  • Publisher: Clarendon Press (Nov. 1 1991)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0198661584
  • ISBN-13: 978-0198661580
  • Product Dimensions: 4.9 x 15.6 x 23.2 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 Kg
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #1,204,104 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

From Booklist

Spanning 16 centuries of Irish literature and covering writing in Gaelic as well as English, this newest member of the Oxford companion series is a worthy complement to its sister publications: The Oxford Companion to English Literature [RBB Ja 1&15 1996] and The Oxford Companion to the Literature of Wales (1986). Welch, an English professor at the University of Ulster at Coleraine, has done a superb job of coordinating the work of the more than 150 scholars who served as contributors to this guide.

Reflecting the diversity of Ireland's literary heritage from the bardic poets and Celtic sagas to twentieth-century authors like Brian Friel, Edna O'Brien, and Nuala NiDhomhnaill, the more than 2,000 unsigned entries cover writers, titles of major works, literary genres and motifs, folklore, mythology, periodicals, associations, and historical figures and events. Since Ireland's literature is inextricably intertwined with its religious and political differences, articles on Catholicism, Protestantism, Northern Ireland, the IRA, and Sinn Fein appear along with entries on literary subjects such as Big House, Metrics, and Stage-Irishman. Events that have shaped or influenced Irish writers, such as the famine of the mid-nineteenth century and the Easter Rising of 1916, are also treated. Entries vary in length from a paragraph to more than four pages, with the longer articles treating topics of special literary significance, such as the Abbey Theatre, and major authors like Joyce, Shaw, and Yeats. Many entries conclude with brief references to additional sources.

In most respects, the articles are remarkably current. Entries on contemporary writers generally refer to publications through mid-1995, and the deaths of Brian Coffey and Joseph Tomelty in 1995 are noted. Although the announcement in October that Seamus Heaney had won the 1995 Nobel Prize for Literature obviously came too late to be included, no such excuse can be offered for the article on Roddy Doyle, which does not indicate that his Paddy Clarke Ha Ha Ha was the recipient of the 1993 Booker Prize. Supplementing the dictionary portion are maps of Ireland and of downtown Dublin and a selective bibliography of secondary works. A chronology of historical events through 1994 is also provided. A chronology of major literary works and authors would have been a welcome feature.

The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature has the obvious advantage of being 15 years more up-to-date than Robert Hogan's Dictionary of Irish Literature (Greenwood, 1979), and it contains more than twice as many entries as that work, which focused primarily on Anglo-Irish writers. However, Hogan is still useful for its primary bibliographies and its more extensive articles. (A new edition of Hogan will be published in November.)

This excellent guide to the literature of the Emerald Isle also serves as an introduction to the rich history and culture of a land whose physical beauty masks the scars of its turbulent past. It is a valuable resource that belongs in most public and academic libraries.

Review

`A good present . . .well worth its price of L8.99' Irish post 25/11/2000

`one consults an Oxford Companion for facts, not assessment, and you will find many cogent and extensive definitions here ... so much industry has gone into this undertaking that we should be grateful for all it contains in the way of information and illumination' Patricia Craig, The Independent

`heroic volume ... It surpasses previous exercises of a similar nature in the richness of its detail and the ecumenism of its approach. The system of cross-reference favoured in successive Oxford Companions proves to be perhaps the book's crowning glory. An act of critical interpretation in its own right, this book not only records the details of an immensely rich literature, but also helps to change the way in which we understand it.' Times Literary Supplement

`Editor Robert Welch ... has spent 10 years compiling the book. It has not been wasted.' Mario Basini, Cardiff Western Mail

`monumental ... The work has required 10 assiduous years to compile, and the author offers it as both reliable guide and stimulating companion to any reader wishing to delve into Ireland's surest indigenous industry, the written word' Anne Simpson, Glasgow Herald

`there could hardly be a better time to publish The Oxford Companion to Irish Literature ... the Companion gives a dizzyingly eclectic overview of Irish literature - and sometimes political - life' Ian McTear, Belfast Telegraph

`enlightening survey of Irish Literature' Tom Lawrence, Oxford Times

`the brief guides to further reading are admirably up-to-date ... The editor declares an intention to avoid jargon and he deserves heartfelt gratitude for succeeding. There is much to relish between the lines ... the Companion does more than plug a necessary gap in the unevenly-filled shelf of Irish reference books. It records and celebrates an extraordinarily distinguished intellectual achievement.' Roy Foster, The Times

`Anyone interested in following up the Irish literary institutions and concepts ... must acquire the new Oxford Companion to Irish Literature ... a hugely useful tool for checking and reference.' Victoria Glendinning, Daily Telegraph

`This book is a treasure chest of knowledge about the well-known and lesser-known writers responsible for Ireland's rich literary heritage. It is a mammoth work ... For anyone really interested in Irish literature it is a must ... a reference book that can be dug out and delved into whenever the need arises ... the book is a fine piece of work, and it should be in any serious Irish reader's library.' Pat Byrne, Irish World

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Abbey Theatre, the (Irish Literary Theatre; later Irish National Theatres), grew out of the literary revival that took place after the death of Parnell in 1891. Read the first page
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Amazon.com: 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Serious tool for serious readers Sept. 4 2004
By Charles J. Marr - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The vast and growing field of Irish Literature can be a puzzle even to those who have spent a lifetime studying literature. Perhaps no literature/culture in the world is like that of Ireland. Consider the complexity of the Irish language and the English language and the Latin language all co-existing and interacting for centuries. The mingled mythologies and literary traditions, the images and allusions, interact in a fashion that puzzles but also delights. A little example is the mythological implications of something as simple as the swan:appearing in early mythology as the enchanted children of Lir, swans become symbols of abandonment, betrayal, timelessness, beauty and , LO! Yeats lifts them to the level of poetic inspiration.

This is not a soft or easy book to read. Its list of contributos has many recognizable scholarly names. They treat their subjects as scholars do. It is helpful in cross-referencing and giving Gaelic/English equivalents to names and titles. Even relatively minor writers have entries. However, note that the rich contemporary literary life of Ireland( the last ten years) requires some updating. Also, this is not a history or geography. There are some good ones available and it is useful to keep them on a nearby shelf, so as to understand strange reversals of fortune such as the role of ancient Ulster as seat of Irish identity and rebellion. I think a listing of significant events would be useful, but the roll of Irish rebellions and causes may be overwhelming. So too, I would probably find some use for a thorough guide to pronunciation, just so I can hear the terms in my head.

One of the strongest aspects of the text is that it includes the entire scope of writers: Irish who wrote in Irish, Irish who wrote in English, English living in Ireland, Irish living in England and even Irish writing in French. Rebels, West Britons, Ascendancy, and even anonymous, all get their seat at this table. I found myself, after a bit of referencing, sitting and reading forty or fifty pages at a time. That, too, is a matter of personal taste, but this is a subject one may find much to muse upon.
5.0 out of 5 stars A History of Irish Literature June 14 2013
By Morrighan - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Many students and faculty have used an Oxford Companion as the primary guide to literature and other topics. How wonderful that one exists for Irish Literature. I couldn't imagine going without one.

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