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The Irish Voice in America: 250 Years of Irish-American Fiction

Charles Fanning
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 2
Pages: 448
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  • Book Info
    The Irish Voice in America
    Book Description:

    " Winner of the American Conference for Irish Studies Prize for Literary Criticism The Irish Voice in America surveys the fiction written by the Irish in America over the past two hundred and fifty years. For this second edition, Fanning has added a chapter that covers the fiction of the past decade. He argues that contemporary writers continue to draw on Ireland as a source and are important chroniclers of the modern American experience.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4833-5
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. INTRODUCTION. The Two Cycles of Irish-American Fiction
    (pp. 1-5)

    For over two hundred years American writers of Irish birth or background have been exploring what it means to be an immigrant or ethnic in America. Their work has much more to do with America than with Ireland, for it is the product not of a single culture but of a collision of disparate cultures. The result has been a uniquely American literature, one largely concerned with minority alienation and assimilation into a primarily urban New World environment. Such concerns remain compelling and relevant in these years of intensified worldwide immigration. As John Berger has said, “never before our time...

  5. ONE Backgrounds and a Habit of Satire
    (pp. 6-38)

    An Irish-American voice first sounds clearly in a broadside that appeared on the streets of New York in 1769: “The Irishmen’s Petition, To the Honourable Commissioners of Excise, &c.”

    The humble petition of Patrick O’Conner, Blany O’Bryan, and Carney Macguire, to be appointed Inspectors and Over-lookers for the port of — And whereas we your aforesaid petitioners will both by night and by day, and all night, and all day, and we will come and go, and walk, and ride, and take, and bring, and send, and fetch, and carry, and see all, and more than all, and every thing, and...

  6. TWO The Profession of Novelist: James McHenry and Charles Cannon
    (pp. 39-71)

    The first Irish-American novel,The Irish Emigrant, An Historical Tale Founded on Fact,was written by “An Hibernian,” and published in Winchester, Virginia, in 1817. The author may have been one Adam Douglass, who filed the book with the Virginia state clerk, and the location, at the head of the Shenandoah Valley, was a focal point for immigrants from Ulster. As early as 1760, a visiting Scottish nobleman found Winchester inhabited by “a spurious race of mortals known by the appellation of Scotch-Irish” (Jones 895).The Irish Emigrantis ambitious (filling two volumes of 200 pages each), intensely nationalistic (dedicated...

  7. THREE The Famine Generation: Practical Fiction for Immigrants
    (pp. 72-113)

    A typical novel of the Famine immigration and a good illustration of the difference between the first two Irish-American literary generations is Peter McCorry’sMount Benedict, or The Violated Tomb. A Tale of the Charlestown Convent(1871), a fictional version of the burning of the Ursuline convent in 1834. McCorry’s preface declares his aim and sets the hyperbolic tone. Because “outrageous outbursts of popular passion” against Catholics continue, and “places dedicated to the worship of God ... are oftentimes despoiled for the gratification of a wild fanaticism,” McCorry has here “put on record the committal of a deed of shame...

  8. FOUR Mrs. Sadlier and Father Quigley
    (pp. 114-152)

    This chapter considers two novelists of unequal significance. Mary Anne Sadlier was the most prolific and influential writer of the Famine generation, and also the first important Irish-American female voice. In all, she published some sixty volumes in a variety of literary modes, many of which were in print for the entire second half of the nineteenth century. In explaining the difficulty of dating first editions of her books, Willard Thorp has said that “her early novels were evidently read to pieces” (99). Sadlier’s eighteen novels of Irish history and American immigrant life thus demand close attention. These works, all...

  9. FIVE Respectability and Realism: Ambivalent Fictions
    (pp. 153-197)

    Katherine E. Conway’sLalor’s Maplesof 1901 is a representative novel for its time in a number of ways. Born in Rochester, New York, in 1853, Conway began a career in journalism there, then moved on to Buffalo and finally Boston, where in 1883 she became an assistant editor of thePilotunder John Boyle O’Reilly. She went on to wrfte several Catholic moral guidebooks, some genteel/sentimental verse, a collection of stories, and two novels.¹ Conway’s fiction contains a mixture of realism and sentimental romance that is prototypically defining for her Irish-American literary generation.Lalor’s Maplesis her most realistic...

  10. SIX Mr. Egan and Mr. Dooley
    (pp. 198-237)

    Maurice Francis Egan and Finley Peter Dunne are representative figures of the third nineteenth-century Irish-American literary generation. Both were sons of immigrants who had made it into the burgeoning Irish middle class, the emergence of which defined the period. Maurice Egan’s father had come to Philadelphia from County Tipperary early in the second quarter of the century. A genial Democratic ward politician, he became a successful businessman (director of a foundry) and married a high-toned Christian Philadelphia woman. Peter Dunne’s father had come with his parents from Queens County to New Brunswick at the age of six. As a young...

  11. SEVEN A Generation Lost
    (pp. 238-256)

    In 1926 Thomas Beer’s Irish-American informant inThe Mauve Decadewrote: “TheAmerirish in X [his home city] who come back fondly to me in memory were the middling kind. They lived in a little colony of frame houses on three parallel streets back of St. Mary’s. The men were superior mechanics or shopkeepers or little lawyers. The Nordics held them at arm’s length and treated them in a half-humorous, half-condescending way, as the middle-class American treats the Catholic Irishman .... It is the weakness or the excessive sentiment of the Amerirish that no writer has spoken of that life in...

  12. EIGHT James T. Farrell and Irish-American Fiction
    (pp. 257-291)

    In February 1930 a negative review of a new, encomiastic biography of Donn Byrne appeared in theSaturday Review of Literature.The reviewer was the unknown but outspoken James T. Farrell, then twenty-five with one published story. As in his previous assessment of Jim Tully, he had read Donn Byrne’s fiction carefully, understood its serious failings, and explained them crisply: “He was a sleepy traditionalist, weakly repeating Yeats’s cry that ‘Romantic Ireland’s dead and gone.’ His work, particularly the Irish tales, are essentially shallow .... Byrne’s values were lodged in the uncritical and boasting Irish tradition of national glory. ....

  13. NINE Regional Realists of the Thirties and Forties
    (pp. 292-311)

    When asked in 1979 by theNew York Times Book Review,“What book made you decide to become a writer and why?” Norman Mailer answered as follows: “I readStuds Loniganin my freshman year at Harvard and it changed my life. Literature through high school had been works by Sir Walter Scott, Thomas Hardy, Rafael Sabatini(Captain Blood)and Jeffrey Famol(The Amateur Gentleman).Now, I realized that you could write books about people who were something like the people you had grown up with. I couldn’t get over the discovery. I wanted to write. When I think of...

  14. TEN “These Traits Endure”: The Irish Voice in Recent American Fiction
    (pp. 312-357)

    When asked about his lrishness in 1985, novelist William Kennedy spoke clearly:

    I believe that I can’t be anything other than Irish American. I know there’s a division here, and a good many Irish Americans believe they are merely American. They’ve lost touch with anything that smacks of Irishness as we used to know it. That’s all right. But I think if they set out to discover themselves, to wonder about why they are what they are, then they’ll run into a psychological inheritance that’s even more than psychological. That may also be genetic, or biopsycho-genetic, who the hell knows...

  15. ELEVEN Liberating Doubleness in the Nineties
    (pp. 358-391)

    Irish-American literature is alive and it is well. While mass emigration from Ireland is borne back ceaselessly into the past, creative writing of depth and quality identifiable as Irish-American continues to appear. A valid opening question is why, against demographic odds, does such a body of work still exist? The beginnings of an answer come from an Irish ethnic outpost the very remoteness of which brings legitimacy to the analysis. In a seminal essay, “Imagination’s Home,” Australian poet Vincent Buckley, the grandson of Irish immigrants, coined the phrase “source-country,” by which he means the genius loci of “a knowledge which...

  16. Notes
    (pp. 392-411)
  17. Works Cited
    (pp. 412-432)
  18. Index
    (pp. 433-448)