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Seán O’Faoláin (1900-1991) was an Irish writer, cultural critic, and editor of the literary magazine The Bell. He wrote prolifically throughout the twentieth century, and while his short stories are often anthologized, much of his work is now out of print. This project will examine O’Faoláin’s first two short story collections, Midsummer Night Madness (1932) and A Purse of Coppers (1937), within the context of the post-independence period in Ireland. The 1930s is a period often glossed over in both political and literary histories of Ireland, overshadowed by the Literary Revival and primarily characterized by deepening conservatism and political strife. However, the 1930s was also an era in which essential debates about Irish identity and the future of the Irish nation played out, in public discourse and in literature. Memory, in particular, served as an important site for these debates, as the newly independent Irish nation sought to define itself in relation to its turbulent past. O’Faoláin’s stories from this period reflect post-independence disillusionment and draw a desolate picture of a nation at a crossroads. At the same time, however, the stories draw upon revolutionary memories to construct a vision of a new Ireland, one no longer shaped by the legacies of colonialism. Situating O’Faoláin’s work within the context of postcolonial theory, my project argues for the postcolonial short story’s unique ability to represent identities in transition and shape the future of the Irish nation.
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