With its penchant for dissecting rehearsed attitudes and subverting expectations, Flann O’Brien’s writing displays an uncanny knack for comic doubling and self-contradiction. Focusing on the satirical energies and anti-authoritarian temperament invested in his style, Flann O'Brien: Problems with Authority interrogates the author's clowning with linguistic, literary, legal, bureaucratic, political, economic, academic, religious and scientific powers in the sites of the popular, the modern and the traditional.
By taking O’Brien’s riotous clashes with diverse manifestations of authority as an entry point, the volume draws together disparate elements of the writer's work. Each chapter reflects on some aspect of his iconoclastic impulses; on the impertinent send-ups of pretension and orthodoxy to be found in his fiction, columns, and writing for stage and screen; on the very nature of his comedic inspiration.... Among the topics addressed are O’Brien’s satirical use of the pseudonym, the cliché and the Irish language; his irreverent repackaging of inherited myths, sacred texts and formative canons; and his refusal of literary and ideological closure.
The emerging picture is of a complex literary project that is always, in some way, a writing against the weight of received wisdoms and inherited sureties. Together, these essays invite us to reconsider O’Brien’s profile as, at once, a local comedian, a critic of provincial attitudes, a formal innovator and an inimitable voice in the twentieth-century avant-garde. Most pressingly, Flann O'Brien: Problems with Authority compels us to consider the many ways in which O’Brien’s texts bring into sharp relief the kinship between comic genius and an anti-authoritarian temperament.
Editors’ introduction RUBEN BORG, PAUL FAGAN, JOHN MCCOURT
‘neither popular nor profitable’: O’Nolan vs. The Plain People
‘irreverence moving towards the blasphemous’: Brian O’Nolan, Blather and Irish popular culture CAROL TAAFFE
‘No more drunk, truculent, witty, celtic, dark, desperate, amorous paddies!’: Brian O’Nolan and the Irish stereotype MAEBH LONG
Lamhd láftar and bad language: bilingual cognition in Cruiskeen Lawn MARIA KAGER
‘the half-said thing’: Cruiskeen Lawn, Japan and the Second World War CATHERINE FLYNN
Physical comedy and the comedy of physics in The Third Policeman, The Dalkey Archive and Cruiskeen Lawn KATHERINE EBURY
Mixed inks: O’Nolan vs. his peers
‘widening out the mind’: Flann O’Brien’s ‘wide mind’ between Joyce’s ‘mental life’ and Beckett’s ‘deep within’ DIRK VAN HULLE
Phwat’s in a nam?: Brian O’Nolan as a Late Revivalist RONAN CROWLEY
Fantastic economies: Flann O’Brien and James Stephens R. W. MASLEN
The ideal and the ironic: incongruous Irelands in An Béal Bocht, No Laughing Matter and Ciarán Ó Nualláin’s Óige an Dearthár IAN Ó CAOIMH
More ‘gravid’ than gravitas: Collopy, Fahrt and the Pope in Rome JOHN MCCOURT
Gross impieties: O’Nolan vs. the sacred texts
‘a scholar manqué’?: further notes on Brian Ó Nualláin’s engagement with Early Irish literature LOUIS DE PAOR
In defence of ‘gap-worded’ stories: Brian O’Nolan on authority, reading and writing ALANA GILLESPIE
Reading Flann with Paul: modernism and the trope of conversion RUBEN BORG
The Dalkey Archive: a Menippean satire against authority DIETER FUCHS
‘walking forever on falling ground’: closure, hypertext and the textures of possibility in The Third Policeman TAMARA RADAK