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Modern Irish writers : a bio-critical sourcebook /

Main Author: Gonzalez, Alexander G.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Westport, Conn. : Greenwood Press, 1997
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Review by Choice Review

Intended as a "reference work for scholars," this collection of 77 brief signed essays covers Irish writers who came to prominence during the Celtic revival and later. Essays follow a boilerplate format that includes a brief biography, a survey of major works and themes, a summary of the critical reception, and a selected primary and secondary bibliography in addition to the general bibliography. Except for a handful of writers in the Irish language, the subjects are included in Dictionary of Irish Literature, ed. by Robert Hogan et al. (CH, Apr'97), with which Modern Irish Writers suffers in comparison. The essays are of diverse quality, some written with a firm grasp of the literature and a confident ability to encompass the contributions and historical significance of an author, but too many others rely clumsily on secondary sources which they fail to assimilate. Several summaries of critical reception are so brief they call into question the inclusion of their subjects in this volume. The bibliographies are annoyingly inconsistent in content and format; some cite first publications, some prefer reprints, and a number of prominent critical and biographical works are omitted. Best used as a supplement to the Dictionary. W. S. Brockman; University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Booklist Review

The Irish Renaissance (Syracuse Univ., 1977) by Richard Fallis has long been regarded as a leading resource on Irish literary history. Using this work as his primary guide, Gonzalez has created a solid introductory resource on 77 twentieth-century authors. The literary figures in Modern Irish Writers span the entire century, intertwining the lesser known, prominent, and most recent. Unfortunately, the arrangement of material is alphabetical rather than chronological, making it somewhat cumbersome for students and researchers wanting to trace the evolution of writing styles and the influences of earlier authors on later ones. Nonetheless, with care, this type of research can be performed. The table of contents includes the birth and death years of each person covered, and important literary influences are named throughout the author descriptions. Four to 10 pages are devoted to each author, the average entry being 6 pages long. Written by a number of contributors, most of whom have backgrounds in literature or Irish studies, the entries include biography, major works and themes, critical reception, and bibliography. The biographical section, usually relatively brief, tends to describe family life, early neighborhoods, and other sociological and economic factors that the individual's writing reflects. The next section, dealing with major works and themes, is the longest and most descriptive portion. It is here that techniques, themes, schools of thought, and influences of past and present writers are discussed at length. The critical reception section describes the evolution of the writer's reputation; or, in the case of younger writers, the response of contemporary critics. The bibliography portion consists of two parts: works by and works about the writer. There is a more comprehensive bibliography at the end of the volume. Coverage is quite full, ranging from authors such as Joyce and Yeats, whose careers began in the nineteenth century and ended in the early to mid^-twentieth century, to writers such as Rita Ann Higgins and Paula Meehan, who were born in the 1950s. Modern Irish Writers is certain to serve students and scholars equally well. Students will appreciate the solid overview and comprehensiveness of a general basic textbook, and scholars will appreciate the information on less-familiar writers. Recommended for academic and large public libraries.

From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.