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Elizabeth Bowen's Selected Irish Writings
Elizabeth Bowen's Selected Irish Writings

Our Price:39.00
Authors: Eibhear Walshe
Affiliation: University College Cork
Publication Year: Hardback July 2011
Pages: 272
Size: 234 x156mm

ISBN: 9781859184493


This anthology of the Irish writings of the Anglo-Irish novelist, Elizabeth Bowen 1899-1973 gathers together, for the first time, her Irish writings including her  lectures, essays, reviews and reports and includes an extensive introductory essay by the editor as well as annotations and a critical bibliography .

Elizabeth Bowen's family had been settled in Farrahy in North Cork for nearly two hundred years by the time of her birth in 1899 and her fictions reflect this long and difficult history between landlord and landscape.  As she wrote in her family history Bowen's Court (1942)  'The land outside Bowen's Court's windows left prints on my ancestors eyes that looked out: perhaps their eyes left, also, prints on the scene? If so, those prints were part of the scene to me'.  In all of these Irish writings, Bowen looked homewards to North Cork as a place of stability and loyalty in an endangered world and her vision of Anglo-Ireland becomes her talisman, her source for imaginative power and stability in war-disordered London. This edited collection charts her illuminating relationship with the new Irish state from her perspective as an Anglo-Irish novelist and provides an account of her life-long engagement with her own country from 1929 until the late 1960s.

Eibhear Walshe is is a senior lecturer in the Department of Modern English at University College Cork. He is the editor of Ordinary People Dancing: Essays on Kate O'Brien (Cork University Press 1993), Sex, Nation and Dissent, (Cork University Press 1997)

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5 of 5 The value of this collection what could be called October 14, 2011
Reviewer: Mary Leland Irish Examiner from Republic of Ireland  
The value of this collection  what could be called its achievment  is in its ability to offer rather than assert possibilities. Of course Walshe has ideas of his own  although as editor he is generous enough to usher the reader gently towards his belief that Ireland drew into the light essential contradictions in Bowen s imagination.

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5 of 5 If you begin in Ireland Elizabeth Bowen famousl September 6, 2011
Reviewer: Patricia Craig Irish Times from Republic of Ireland  
If you begin in Ireland   Elizabeth Bowen famously said   Ireland remains the norm.  And so it was for her  though not without many equivocations and reservations. As a candidate for the top place in her literary imagination  Ireland had to fight it out with the Kentish coastal towns where Bowen lived with her mother during the five years preceding Florence Bowen s death  in 1912  and to which she returned in old age.  Neither was London excluded from the picture.  Ireland won  I think  but only just  and owed its preeminence to her ancestral home  Bowen s Court  in Co Cork. Her Ireland was not at all akin to most people s   which is not to deny it its own validity and enchantment. Ascendancy Ireland   big house  Ireland  is quintessential Bowen terrain. And in both her fiction and nonfiction she approaches the topic of its relation to other versions of Ireland  and to all the upheavals  social and otherwise  of the 20th century  with wit  aplomb and an uncanny perceptiveness that engenders an effect at once haunting and sardonic.    In her art  as in her life  the ambivalence and complexity noted by almost all Bowen critics are the source of a singular resonance. Her stories set in Ireland  says  ibhear Walshe in his introduction to this new nonfiction collection  enable Bowen s literary impulse to appear at its  most illuminatingly ambivalent .  That s an ambivalent statement in itself.  But even her more straightforward or clear cut reviews and essays can accommodate a measure of ambiguity in their assertions  as one thing shades into another:  The Irish face expresses fatalism brightening to animation  eagerness shading into mistrust.  This from an essay written in 1950  highlighting illusions and contradictions inherent in the Irish character.    This new selected Irish writings is a welcome addition to Bowen publications. Even if a lot of its inclusions are available elsewhere   in Hermione Lee s The Mulberry Tree of 1986  for instance  or Elizabeth Bowen s own Collected Impressions and Afterthought   it has a value in restoring a due emphasis to the novelist s birthplace  and to her sense of herself as an Irish  or Anglo Irish  woman. It contains criticism  reviews  prefaces  social comment and reports for the Ministry of Information in London on the mood in Dublin vis   vis the war and controversial Irish neutrality   the last a workmanlike undertaking far removed from any literary purpose  and it shows.    To get at the essence of the country   the  small vivid country   Bowen calls it   it is better to read one of the pungent and lyrical appraisals of changes and continuities in Irish life. These essays remind us powerfully of how Ireland was in the past  and how it was viewed. They are notes from another age  and gain in sharpness from Bowen s insider outsider perspective.  The air breathed in is soporific; the distances hold other worldly gleam . . . Speech  and speech with a bias  is the nation s delight. Loud  lordly talkers cluster in pubs  congregate in villages after Mass  mill through horses  pigs or cattle upon a fair day.     She is writing at a time   1950   before Ireland s innumerable sleepy towns woke up and  after the manner of fractious children  set about smashing all around them: architecture  traditions  tranquillity. The growth of vulgarity  which did impinge on the observer   farmers  daughters going to Mass or to town  in crenellated veil hung hats   rich manufacturers copying the Tatler photographs   enlarging the check of the tweeds by half again    is only very mildly deprecated in these pages.    Indeed  you can tax Elizabeth Bowen with being un Irish only in one respect: a certain determination  bred of courtesy  to offend no one and abstain from outrage. Sometimes she bends over backwards not to frame her comments in a style de haut en bas   most noticeably  perhaps  in her tribute to an old Bowen s Court servant   The Most Unforgettable Character I ve Met   called Sarah Barry. She doesn t baulk at taking afternoon tea with the egregious Archbishop McQuaid  as recounted in a wartime Report    an intriguing occasion  one feels  with both of them  moderate Protestant and rampant cleric  on their best behaviour  and topics of conversation ranging from  mystical visions  to the need to teach Irishwomen how to cook.    The current collection includes a wonderfully evocative account of Christmas at Bowen s Court in prewar days    The decoration  with holly and other foliage  of the pale blue inside of our Protestant church occupied the morning . . . the crux  towards the end of the day  is the installation by me of the Christmas candle   of scarlet  jade green  yellow or pink wax    and then  towards the end of the book  comes the extinction of the great house and the last of the Bowens  refusal to mourn  or mourn overtly :  It was a clean end. Bowen s Court never lived to be a ruin.  Again  she withholds condemnation   but an  Afterward  1963   prepared for a new edition of her family history  tells the sorry story.     ibhear Walshe provides a cogent and informative introduction to this new selection  and ends by acknowledging its subject s  hyphenated identity . I wish he would stop calling Bowen s novels and stories her  fictive writings   but this is only a small irritation  like Bowen s own constant allusions to  Eire    Eire this and Eire that   which only sounds right if you re speaking Irish. It s a relief when she reverts to  Ireland  or  the Irish Republic .    And then it is odd to find so many pages devoted to the Paris Peace Conference of 1946 in a book purporting to stick to Ireland. The real virtue of the book  though  is to remind us how magnificently Elizabeth Bowen rose to every occasion: applauding and illuminating Sheridan Le Fanu  writing a poetic historical drama centred on Kinsale  presiding over the social life of Bowen s Court. Through it all shines her distinctive critical manner  at once grand  colloquial and engagingly idiosyncratic.

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