Call for Papers

Competing Traditions

The 20th and 21st Century Irish Literatures between Realism and Experimentation

29 June-1 July 2017

The tension between realism and experimentation has marked the development of modern Irish literature, being intrinsic to the work of a number of major Irish writers. Often regarded as a father-figure of all experimental writing, James Joyce was attacked by as different commentators as Lukács and Pound for the scope and radicalness of experiment, particularly in Finnegans Wake. However, Joyce himself considered his work to be firmly set in the realist tradition. At a time when he was yet to publish his first collection of lyrics, W. B. Yeats was encouraged by his father to write realist prose, which may eventually have contributed to his abhorrence of realism in favour of ever more daring experimentation in verse writing. Nonetheless, Yeats’s poetry is packed full of amazingly realist portrayals of the world about him. J. M. Synge may have worked in a realist mode but his implementation of vernacular Aran speech paved the way for the linguistic experimentation of the following generations of Irish (also English-language) playwrights.

Modern Irish literature may seem to be a field of (whether conscious or not remains to be investigated) vacillators who employ traditional genres and modes of writing, while at the same time, almost instinctively, seeking to supersede conventions. Sometimes this happens tacitly, by pushing the boundaries of expressiveness a little further, like with Synge. Occasionally the revolt engulfs conventions in flames in which new means of expression are forged, as is the case in Joyce.

In view of this peculiar tradition that weds compliance with rebellion, the conference aims to focus on a broad spectrum of literatures from across Ireland and the Irish diaspora with a view to unravelling not only the conflict but also exchanges and creative tensions between realism and experiment.

The topics of presentations may include but are in no way limited to:

  • Realist and experimental modes in high modernism and onwards
  • Experimental literature today and a century ago: continuity and change
  • Revisions of the realist mode in contemporary Irish literatures
  • Ethics and aesthetics of realist and/or experimental literature
  • The great masters’ (stifling/enabling) influences
  • Contemporary realisms (including magical realism)
  • Voices from the margin (social, cultural, racial, etc.) and the conventions and aesthetics they have embraced or created
  • Cosmopolitanism vs. parochialism – openness and resistance to foreign trends
  • Irish literature and globalization (e.g. realism and experimentation in literary responses to global traumas, literature and the new media, literature and migration, etc.)
  • The aesthetics of nostalgia and futurity

THE CONFERENCE STARTS IN: