Representations of the Jew in the Modern Irish Novel since Joyce

Elmer Kennedy-Andrews

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    This study reads the Semitic discourse in five modern Irish novels – Francis Stuart's Black List Section H (1971), Robert MacLiam Wilson's Manfred's Pain (1992), Robert Welch's Groundwork (1997), Jennifer Johnston's This is Not a Novel (2002), and John Banville's Shroud (2002) – for what it tells us about the cultural identity of modern Ireland, and for what it reveals of the psychohistory, and even the psychopathology, of Irishness hidden in these representations. The span of five novels allows some demonstration, first, of the ambivalence, rather than overt hostility or unqualified identification, which characterises this writing; and, second, of the striking variety and heterogeneity in the representation of ‘the Jew’ in contemporary Irish writing. Such unpredictability and contradictoriness in the construction of Jewish racial difference challenges or threatens both the national discourse which seeks to exert control over the unmanageable ‘reality’ of Ireland in terms of fixity, certainty, centredness, homogeneity, and the transcendent discourse of liberal universalism. That is, these novelists, in demonstrating the impossibility of fixing the indeterminate Jew as one thing or the other, reflect a more general crisis of representation, not only for the nation (Welch, Johnston), and the individual (Wilson, Stuart), but for epistemology itself (Banville).

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    About this Journal
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    The Irish University Review was founded in 1970 at University College Dublin as a journal of Irish literary criticism. Since then, it has become the leading global journal of Irish literary studies. It is affiliated to the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures (IASIL), whose members receive the journal as a benefit of association membership.

    In its early years, the journal published short literary works (poetry, short stories, one-act plays) as well as literary critical essays. Increasingly, however, the journal specialised in defining and expanding the scope of Irish literary studies. The journal has no prescriptive agenda about the subject or methodology of the literary criticism it publishes, other than insisting upon the highest standards of academic scholarship through a rigorous screening and peer review process. It welcomes submissions on all aspects of Irish literature in the English language, particularly submissions which expand the range of authors and texts to receive critical treatment, and which challenge the prevailing trends and assumptions of the field.
    Original languageEnglish
    JournalIrish University Review
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 1 Nov 2013


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