Unauthorized Versions, Irish Menippean Satire, 1919-1952

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Certain moments in history, especially periods of cultural turmoil and political change, appear to be conducive to the writing of Menippean satire. Unauthorized Versions is the first integral study of Menippean satires written in Ireland in the three decades following the declaration of the Irish Free State in 1922. The book discusses works by Darrell Figgis, Eimar O’Duffy, Austin Clarke, Flann O’Brien, and Mervyn Wall in the context of political and social developments, particularly relating to economic policy, the role of the Church, and censorship. Mikhail Bakhtin defines Menippean satire as an unresolved dialogue between actual and/or implied voices designed to test a truth or philosophical idea. The Irish satirists of the first half of the twentieth century use medieval Ireland as a setting for addressing contemporary concerns, or borrow characters from medieval Irish texts that they place in a modern context. Each satire thus creates a series of dialogues: between the past and present; between characters who represent opposing values and ideologies; and between the older texts and their modern reworkings. Unauthorized Versions reveals the double bind at the core of every Menippean satire. Each writer discussed in the book expresses an awareness of the paradox of an author writing in the vacuum created by official censorship, seeking to engage his audience in the dethroning of the very authorities by whom he is deprived of his audience. By revealing his own ambiguous position, the satirist knowingly subverts his own authority along with that of his opponents. This study will appeal to students and scholars interested in Irish literature, genre studies, the reception of the Middle Ages, and the relationship between literature and history. José Lanters, associate professor of classics at the University of Oklahoma, will begin her position as associate professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in Fall 2000. She is author of Missed Understandings: A Study of Stage Adaptations of the Works of James Joyce and coeditor of Troubled Histories, Troubled Fictions: Twentieth-Century Anglo-Irish Prose. “Irish satire in the twentieth century has awaited a critic as intelligent and well-informed as Jose Lanters, whose Unauthorized Versions nicely complements Vivian Mercier’s pioneering efforts. For several of the works she discusses, Lanters here provides the only substantial criticism they have received to date. Her approach combines sensitivity to form and expression with a constant attentiveness to historical context, while her study is anchored in a lucid and suggestive use of Bakhtin. Every library with an interest in Irish writing will want this book.”–R. Brandon Kershner Alumni Professor of English, University of Florida “Lanters’ well-argued volume will be a valuable resource for the study of modern Irish prose at the upper-division undergraduate level and above.”–Choice Works discussed in Unauthorized Versions: Darrell Figgis The Return of the Hero Eimar O’Duffy King Goshawk and the Birds The Spacious Adventures of the Man in the Street Asses in Clover Austin Clarke The Bright Temptation The Singing-Men at Cashel The Sun Dances at Easter Flann O’Brien At Swim-Two-Birds The Third Policeman Mervyn Wall The Unfortunate Fursey The Return of Fursey

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