Thomas Flanagan (1923-2002)

[Thomas James Bonner Flanagan]; b. 5 Nov. 1923, Greenwich, Connecticut, son of an oral surgeon with grandparents from Fermanagh on both sides; US Navy Resere, 1942-44, WWII; grad. Amherst College, Massachusetts, B.A. 1945; Columbia, NY, grad. MA (1948), and PhD (1958), both in English; professor of English UC Berkeley, 1960-1978; professor of English State Univ., NY, Stony Brook; issued The Irish Novelists 1800-1850 (1959), originally a doctoral thesis at Columbia Univ., a pioneering study in which he supported the revivalist orthodoxy that post-Famine Irish fiction was a wasteland in which few authors appeared to ‘explain’ Ireland as Walter Scott required of Maria Edgeworth;
later turned to fiction, issuing The Year of the French (1979), a multi-faceted novel giving an account of the French invasion of 1798 and largely based on Bishop [Joseph] Stock’s Narrative - which he commenced in Ireland; he American-Irish Historical Society’s journal Recorder, 44 (NY 1983), was dedicated to him; his later novels were Tenants of Time (1988), a narrative of the Land War in Ireland, and The End of the Hunt (1994), set in Ireland during 1919-1923; he was pre-deceased by his wife Jean. OCIL FDA

Brief biography ...

American; b. Thomas James Bonner Flanagan in Greenwich, Connecticut, 1923. Amherst College, Massachusetts, B.A. 1945; Columbia University, New York, M.A. 1948, Ph.D. in English 1958. Served in the United States Naval Reserve, 1942-44. Instructor, 1949-52, and assistant professor, 1952-59, Columbia University; assistant professor, 1960-67, associate professor, 1967-73, professor, 1973-78, and chair of the Department of English, 1973-76, University of California, Los Angeles; professor of English, State University of New York, Stony Brook, 1978-92, distinguished professor, University of California, Berkeley, 1993—. American Council of Learned Societies grant, 1962; Guggenheim fellowship, 1962; National Book Critics Circle award, 1979. Named Literary Lion, New York Public Library, 1994. D. Litt.: National University, Ireland, 1994; Amherst College, 1995. Agent: Robin Straus Agency, Inc., 229 E. 79th St., New York, New York 10021, U.S.A.

—Brief Biographies online; accessed 24.03.2011.

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Critical studies
  • The Irish Novelists 1800-1850 (Columbia UP 1959), [xiii,] 363pp. [ded. To Jean; with epigraphs from Shakespeare’s, Henry IV, and Joyce’s Ulysses], and Do. [rep. edn.] (Conn: Greenwood Press 1976), xii, 362pp. [see extracts under Quotations, infra];
  • There You Are: Writings on Irish and American Literature and History, ed. & intro. by Christopher Cahill; preface by Seamus Heaney (NY: Review Books/Granta 2005), xx, 488pp. [incls. esays on John Ford, Eugene O’Neill, John O’Hara, Scott Fitzgerald, Heaney, Brian Moore, Ben Kiely, et al.]
  • The Year of the French (NY: Holt, Rinehart & Winston); Do. (London: Macmillan 1979), [7],516p., ill. [maps on lining-paper]; Do. [rep. edn.] (London: Arrow 1998), 642pp., and Do., introduced by Seamus Deane (New York Review Books/Granta [2005], xi, 516pp.;
  • Tenants of Time (NT: Dutton 1988);
  • The End of the Hunt (London: Sinclair Stevenson 1995; rep. Mandarin 1996), 627pp.
Uncollected fiction
  • “The Cold Winds of Adesta”, in in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine (NY: April 1952);
  • “The Point of Honor”, in ibid. (Dec. 1952);
  • “The Lion’s Mane”, in ibid. (March 1953);
  • “This Will Do Nicely”, in ibid., (Aug. 1955);
  • “The Customs of the Country”, in ibid. (July 1956);
  • “Suppose You Were on the Jury”, in ibid. (March 1958).
  • “The Fine Italian Hand”, in Ellery Queen’s Book of First Appearances, ed. Ellery Queen & Eleanor Sullivan (NY: Dial Press 1982).
Articles & chapters [sel.]
  • ‘The Big House of Ross-Drishane’, in Kenyon Review, 28 (1966), pp.58-78;
  • ‘Rebellion and Style: John Mitchel and the Jail Journal’, in Irish University Review (Spring/Summer 1971), pp.1-29;
  • ‘Yeats, Joyce and the Matter of Ireland’, in Critical Inquiry, 2, 1 (1975), pp. 43-67;
  • ‘In Troubled Ireland, the Enemy is History’, in The Boston Globe (11 May 1981), p.15;
  • ‘Literature in English 1801-91’, in A New History of Ireland, Vol. V, ed. W. E. Vaughan (Oxford: Clarendon Press 1989), pp.482-522;
  • ‘Dublin, Ghost and Voices’, in The Sophisticated Traveler (n.d.; prob. Autumn 1995) pp.16-34 [with photos by Elizabeth Seschin for New York Times].
Reviews [sel.]
  • ‘Angry Son of Ireland’, review of James Matthews, Voices: A Life of Frank O’Connor, in The New Republic (25 April, 1983), pp.32-34;
  • review of R. F. Foster, The Apprentice Mage: W. B. Yeats [Vol. 1], in New York Times Review of Books (6 April 1997), pp.10, 12.
  • [...]
  • Introduction to Benedict Kiely, The State of Ireland (Boston: David R. Godine 1980), 380pp.;
  • Critical Introduction to John Mitchel, Jail Journal (Dublin: IUP 1982) [see details under Mitchel, infra];
  • intro., Seamus Heaney: Poems and a Memoir, sel. & ill. by Henry Pearson, with a preface by Seamus Heaney (NY: Limited Editions Club [1982]), xviii, 153pp., [details];
  • intro., Dubliners, by James Joyce (NY: Limited Editions Club 1986), xviii, 289pp., ill. Robert Ballagh [6pp pls.] [100 copies].

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Contributions to the New York Review of Books, 1988-2002
  • 2 April 2002: O Albany!, review of Roscoe by William Kennedy
  • 20 Dec. 2001: John Ford’s West, review of Searching for John Ford: A Life by Joseph McBride
  • 29 Nov. 2001: Western Star, review of Searching for John Ford: A Life by Joseph McBride
  • 21 Dec. 2000: Fitzgerald’s ‘Radiant World’, Novels and Stories, 1920-1922 by F. Scott Fitzgerald; Trimalchio: An Early Version of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, edited by James L. W. West, and Trimalchio by F. Scott Fitzgerald: A Facsimile Edition of the Original Galley Proofs edited by Matthew J. Bruccoli
  • 5 Oct. 2000: Master of the Misbegotten, O’Neill: Life with Monte Cristo by Arthur Gelb
  • 21 Oct. 1999: The Best He Could Do, review of True at First Light by Ernest Hemingway, edited with an introduction by Patrick Hemingway; Hemingway: The Final Years by Michael Reynolds; Hemingway and His Conspirators: Hollywood, Scribners, and the Making of American Celebrity Culture by Leonard J. Leff, and Hemingway: The Postwar Years and the Posthumous Novels by Rose Marie Burwell; see also replies by John Leonard (29 June 2000) and Barbara Probst Solomon (16 Dec. 1999).
  • 22 April 1999: Waking from the Nightmare, review of Breakfast on Pluto by Patrick McCabe; The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty by Sebastian Barry, and The Star Factory by Ciaran Carson
  • 23 Oct. 1997: Family Secrets, review of Reading in the Dark by Seamus Deane
  • 31 March 1988: The Quaking Bog, review of We Irish: Essays on Irish Literature and Society by Denis Donoghu; see also reply by David Leverenz (16 Feb. 1989), with answer by Flanagan.

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Bibliographical details
Seamus Heaney: Poems and a Memoir, selected & illustrated by Henry Pearson, with an introduction by Thomas Flanagan and a preface by Seamus Heaney (NY: Limited Editions Club [1982]), xviii, 153pp., ill., 32 cm. + 1 pamphlet [incls. issue of Monthly letter of the Limited Editions Club, Ser. Vol. 7, No. 530 (1982); ltd edn. of 2000 signed and numbered copies, in slip_case. CONTENTS: Early uncollected poems; Death of a naturalist; Door into the dark; Wintering out; North; Field work; Memoir.

Note: The Recorder, Vol. 44 [American Irish Historical Society] (1983), 108pp., was ‘presented’ to Thomas Flanagan […], the 1983 Medalist of the Society, and incls. a portrait of him.

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  • Benedict Kiely, ‘Thomas Flanagan: The Lessons of History’, in The Hollins Critic (October 1981), rep. in ‘A Raid into Dark Corners and Other Essays (Cork UP 1999), pp.161-68;
  • Denis Donoghue, We Irish (Brighton: Wheatsheaf Harvester 1984; California UP [1984]), pp.258-66;
  • ‘Q & A with Thomas Flanagan’, in Irish Literary Supplement (Spring 1988), pp.26-27;
  • Robert Tracy, ‘Who Fears to Speak of ’98, ’63, ’64, ’65, ’66, ’67, ’68, ’69, ’70?: The Year of the French and the Nineteen Sixties’, in Irish University Review, 28, 1 (Spring-Summer 1998), pp.1-10;
  • Maureen Murphy, ‘Tom Flanagan’ [appreciation], in Irish Literary Supplement, (Fall 2002) [q.p; online; accessed 14.05.2010];
  • [...]

See also Eugene O’Brien, ‘The Years of the French: The French Revolution as a Spatio-Temporal Event’, in Franco-Irish Connections in Space and Time: Peregrinations and Ruminations, ed. Eamon Maher & Catherine Maignant (Oxford: Peter Lang 2012), pp.93-116.

Reviews [incl.]
  • Conor Cruise O’Brien, ‘The Last Invasion’, review of The Year of the French, in Observer (q.d. Aug. 1979);
  • Thomas J. Morrisey, ‘Flanagan’s Year of the French and the Language of Multiple Truths’, in Éire-Ireland, 19.3 (Fall 1984), pp.6-17;
  • Declan Kiberd, ‘A Commentator of Class’, review of There You Are: Writings on Irish and American Literature and History, in The Irish Times/Weekend (21 May 2005). see also notices in Commentary, as infra.

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Peter Ure, Yeats [Writers & Critics Ser.] (Oliver & Boyd: Edinburgh 1963), notes that ‘Thomas Flanagan’s excellent book The Irish Novelists 1800-1850 (NY 1959) pays tribute to [W. B.] Yeats’s undertanding of the subject’ [viz., the subject of subaltern Irish fiction in the nineteenth century] (p.41, n.3.]

Seán Jennett, “For Thomas Flanagan”, a poem - included in Earth Voices Whispering: An Anthology of Irish War Poetry 1914-1945, ed. Gerald Dawe (Belfast: Blackstaff Press 2008), p.215 [‘This breats of sea that suckled sullen war / from that far time when men first gave themselves / into the perilous hollow of a ship [...] breeds war again and rasps the steel / of death against the scaffold bone. [...] O in the icy waters of the north / under the floes he swings at rest / who drowned his turbulence in the restless sea / and fled the empty spaces of the land [...] and silently walked through the sleepy room / and touch his enemies and claimed their souls.&146; [End; p.215.]

Terence Brown, ‘The Dublin of Dubliners’, in James Joyce: An International Perspective, ed. Suheil Bushrui & Bernard Benstock (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1980): ‘Thomas Flanagan has pointed out that Joyce indulged in a certain understandable exaggeration when he proudly boasted that were the city of Duiblin to be destroyed it could be rebuilt with Ulysses as a blueprint. “It is,” remarks Flanagan, “one of the few claims made for that great nobel that exceeds the mark, for in fact, only sections of the city are represented, and the characters are drawn from a narrow banding of hte petty bourgeoisie.”’ (Flanagan, Introduction to Benedict Kiely, The State of Ireland, Boston: David R. Godine 1980, p.4; here p.11.)

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James Cahalan, Great Hatred, Little Room, The Irish Historical Novel (Syracuse UP; Dublin: Gill & Macmillan 1983), Thomas [James Bonner] Flanagan, b. Greenwich, Connecticut, Nov. 5 1923; The Year of the French, ded. ‘In memory as always of Ellen Treacy of Fermanagh and Thomas Bonner of the Fenian Brotherhood’. The Irish Novelists 1800-1850, first published 1958 [sic]; first taught at Columbia; appt. professor and chairman of English dept. Univ. of California at Berkeley; later Chair of English at State Univ. of New York at Stonybrook. The Year of the French takes as its primary model Bishop Joseph Stock of Killala’s A Narrative of What Passed at Killala, in the County of Mayo, and the Parts Adjacent, During the French Invasion in the Summer of 1798 (1800), mimicked by Flanagan as “An Impartial Narrative of What Passed at Killala in the Summer of 1798” by Arthur Vincent Broome - yet the style of the narration more resembles that of Barrington at most points; and cf. John Barth, The Sot Weed Factor. [~197-98]. Flanagan’s theme is despair, and his narrative focuses on the devastating defeats after the temporary success at Castlebar. He ends in showing a scornful French departure from Mayo and Humbert’s cynical chat with the British General Cornwallis, expressing his determination never to return to ‘this most unhealthy country’. George Moore, appointed President of the Republican by Humbert, and his more circumspect brother John Moore (whose hatred of violence is only equalled by his hatred of the arrogance of the ascendancy). The narrative is conducted in different first person voices, but the central character or hero, is clearly Owen McCarthy, a schoolteacher and Gaelic poet, named after the protagonist of William Carleton’s ‘Tubber Derg’. He is a reluctant rebel, and he is hanged after the rising, having ‘burnt’ the ears of the priest to whom he confessed his lively sins. According to his more pious friend Sean McKenna, his sin is too great love, ‘it is perhaps because of it that he is so fine a poet.’ His fate expresses the hopelessness of the ill-equipped and untrained Irish peasants against superior forces, and represents a further stage in the humiliation of Irish culture in the advancing line of British society and culture. The novel ends with his successor, Sean McKenna’s deflatingly mercantile thought, the linen which I brought back with me from Killala is badly bleached and I will think carefully before having further dealings with Johnson of Sligo.’ [197-200].

Benedict Kiely, ‘The Historical Novel’ in Augustine Martin, ed., The Genius of Irish Prose (Cork: Mercier 1985), pp.53-66, offers high praise and speaks of the author’s ‘phenomenal reading and a final polishing with some good companions around the roads of Ireland (pp.56-57.) Further, ‘Perhaps the brightest thing that Flanagan did in the building-up of this considerable book was to invent the character of the Reverend Vincent Broome of Killala and to substitute him for Bishop Stock we, as we all know, was there when the French landed and who kept a journal. […] if a historical novelist were not permitted the taking of such liberties then there would be no historical novels […]’ (p.59).

Benedict Kiely, Drink to the Bird (London: Methuen 1991): ‘A student in the faraway Wild West (in Berkeley, California) once asked Thomas Flanagan - professor, scholar and historical novelist - what was the greatest contribution the Irish had ever made to literature written in English. That learned man, who is somewhat given to quirky remarks which his friends describe as Flanaganisms, said: “To burn Edmund Spenser out of Kilcolman Castle, during the Desmond Wars, and stop him writing about the Faerle Queene.” / Needless to say, Flanagan did not mean it, and being perhaps one of the few who have ever read, with attention, the entire works of Spenser, he hastened to explain his quasi-humorous remark to a somewhat humourless and indiscreet student: but thereafter was engaged for several years in soothing the wounded feelings of the chief Spenserian in that particular college.’ (p.4.)

Robert H. Rhodes, in Irish Literary Supplement (Fall 1994), reviews At the End of the Hunt (Dutton 1994), considered the third and last in a trilogy of historical novels, dealing with Black and Tans and Civil War; die-hard Republican Frank Lacy. Quotes passage close to end of Year of the French, where Vincent Broome asks, “Does man learn from history?” Further, ‘I once asked a scholarly and sagacious friend. Rather than dismissing the question with scorn which doubtless it merited, he reflected on the matter, and said at last, “No, that I believe we do not. But it is possible to learn from historians.” Patrick Prentiss, ‘amateur of history’ conjectures in Tenants of Time that the historian might teach the meaning of the past by taking ‘a moment of history, a week, a month, and know[ing] it fully, perfectly, turn[ing] it in one’s fingers until all the lights had played on its surfaces.’ The same Prentiss, a good deal older, appears in End of the Hunt, and temporises about the ‘new world’ created by the Treaty; Christopher Blake is near the heart of Treaty negotiations, ‘What the hell do you think brought England to the conference table […] ? A century or so of talk did nothing. They were bombed and shot and burned to the conference table.’ Also, ‘We wanted the British out of Ireland […] and they are going. Without our war, they never would have gone. They would have been here another century. That is what matters.’ Flanagan presents diverse aspects of life of Michael Collins, including his relationships with Lady Lavery, the Cairo gang, reaction to death of Cathal Brugha; other characters are de Valera, Griffith, and Childers (who does not emerge with credit); narrated by five imagined characters, Frank Lacy, the die-hard, bookish; Elizabeth Keating, romantic nationalist, factotum of Republican Bulletin; Janice Nugent, dg. of Catholic Big House, widow of Dardenelles victim, and lover of Christopher Blake, himself a narrator who takes up arms against his English friends after release from Dartmoor and becomes a member of Collins’s staff; Patrick Prentiss, now lawyer and historian, who opens; reviewer finds flagging of invention, and a lack of motive in telling their stories on the part of Prentiss and Janice; the death of Cathal Brugha, recorder on film, plays a significant part in the narratives. The novel was reviewed by Terence Brown in NY Times Review of Books (3 Apr. 1994).

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Declan Kiberd, A commentator of class’ [review of There You Are: Writings on Irish and American Literature and History, ed. & intro., Christopher Cahill,in The Irish Times (21 May 2005), Weekend: ‘Even if he had never written The Year of The French, Thomas Flanagan would have been assured a place in critical histories of Irish literature. He had written such a history himself, a path-breaking study of 19th- century novelists from Maria Edgeworth to William Carleton which helped (as Seamus Heaney says in his affectionate preface) to invent the modern discipline of Irish Studies, and that in the year of 1959 when most scholars were still “basically wired up to Eng Lit terminals”. Along with such great critics as Richard Ellmann, Ann Saddlemyer and Hugh Kenner, Flanagan treated Irish writers with the sort of rigour which suggested that their work was no mere adjunct to English literature but a national literature in its own right. / There were, however, problems with the very success of this project, especially as prosecuted by Irish-Americans. Ireland in their scheme of things was invariably the colourful, hopeless, passionate object of their study, and they were the objective, impartial students who came in summer months and on sabbatical years with their file-index cards and searching questions. The notion that Irish-Americans had their own unresolved conflicts (symbolised by the hyphen in their very name), and also a growing literature of their own worthy of separate study, did not exercise many of them […; discusses Flanagan’s view of Irish-Americans such as Eugene O’Neill, Scott Fitzgerald, et al.] Through all these luminous pages, Flanagan casts new light on Mary McCarthy and William Kennedy. He writes with deep feeling of the work of such friends as Frank O’Connor and Seamus Heaney, such predecessors as Yeats and Joyce, such contemporaries as Maeve Brennan and Brian Moore. He is unfailingly generous about the work of younger scholars, such as Roy Foster and the present writer. He is challenging on 1798, Wolfe Tone and the fictions of history. And he is most powerful of all in evoking the spirit of dead friends. / For all his gentlemanly style, Flanagan was something of a radical, a critic of the ways in which class tensions have stung writers into greatness even as they have corrupted social relations. Much art, in his view, is an attempt to compensate for political defeat or social failure. It seems fitting that he will be remembered also for his bleak tripartite witticism to the effect that the English have a class system and make it the obsessive subject of much of their comedy and art; that the Americans have a class system, but being pseudo-democrats, pretend that it doesn’t exist; and that the Irish, being the worst of all, have a class system but will not tell anybody what exactly it is. Flanagan went closer to cracking these baffling codes than most.’ (See full text in RICORSO Library, “Criticism > Reviews”, via index, or direct.)

Rolf & Magda Loeber, A Guide to Irish Fiction, 1650-1900 (Dublin: Four Courts Press 2006): ‘Strangely enough, many Irish literary historians, at least starting with Flanagan, have mostly written about Irish novels, [30] while relatively few scholars have written about Irish tales and stories. Although the focus on novels is understandable, it ignores the fact that most Irish fiction was characterized either as “a tale” in its title, or in fact consisted of a short story of varied length, which in the course of the nineteenth century became a dominant force beside the Irish folktale.’ (p.33.)

Cambridge History of Irish Literature (Cambridge UP 2006): Claire Connolly quotes Thomas Flanagan remark that the novels of Maria Edgeworth and Sydney Owenson [Lady Morgan] are marked by ‘the language of explanation’. (See Connolly, ‘Irish Romanticism, 1800-1839’, in Cambridge History of Irish Literature, Cambridge UP 2006, Vol. I [Chap. 10], p.424, quoting The Irish Novelists, 1956 [recte 1959], p.36.) Further: Flanagan is reproved by Margaret Kelleher for endorsing the view that ‘few novelists appeared in the post-famine years to “explain” Ireland to English readers’ - as Walter Scott had requested of Maria Edgeworth. (Kelleher, Cambridge History [… &c.], 2006, pp.449-50 - quoting Flanagan, ‘Literature in English 1801-91’, in A New History of Ireland, Vol. V, ed. W. E. Vaughan, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1989, p.509.) For Scott’s request, see the letter to M. P. Edgeworth of 19 February 1834 given under Maria Edgeworth, Quotations, infra.

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Irish Novelists, 1800-1850 (1959): ‘The Famine was to leave its heavy and sombre mark not only on Irish society but on its literary consciousness. From that time until almost the close of the century writers were to write in the knowledge that they dealt with a stricken land, ill with a sickness that lay far beneath political formulation’ (p.496). Note: Flanagan quotes Yeats on Irish bitterness at the Famine, as given under W. B. Yeats, Quotations, infra.]

[ See full-text version of of Preface and Introduction to The Irish Novelists 1800-1850 (Columbia UP 1959), in RICORSO Library, "Critical Classics", via index or direct. ]

The Irish Novelists (1959): ‘The history of the Irish novel is one of continuous attempts to represent the Irish experience within conventions which were not innately congenial to it. Maria Edgeworth’s novels-with-thesis, Lady Morgan’s exotic romances, Gerald Griffin’s moralities, the picaresque narratives of William Carleton are all encumbered in certain essential ways by the conventions which they have assumed. The best of them, which seek to move beyond these forms, make their strongest points and exist most vividly through indirection, symbol, allusion, and subtle shifts of points of view. / Technique, however, is always correlative to the sense of life which it embodies and makes manifest. The English novels, whether great or good, are concerned with the actualities of social existence, and with the heroisms and comedies of social choice. The salient feature of the Irish novel, as we have seen, is its involvement with issues of another order, its concern with the ways in which history, language, and race may define, liberate, or thwart the personality. (pp.334-35; quoted in Patrick Sheeran, “The Novels of Liam O’Flaherty: A Study in Romantic Realism”, Ph.D., UCG 1972, p.171.)

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Irish Novelists, 1800-1850 (NY 1958 [sic]): ‘[t]he Irish mind had always been influenced, to the point of obsession, “by deeds and passions of the past”’ (p.188; quoted in Rolf Loeber & Magda Loeber, A Guide to Irish Fiction, 1650-1900, Dublin: Four Courts 2006), p.l.)

Anglo-Irish contexts: ‘If the history of that larger literature (Irish in English) is to be read properly, it must be placed within the larger contexts of both British and European thought and art.’ (Thomas Flanagan, ‘Literature in English 1801-91’, in A New History of Ireland, Vol. V, ed. W. E. Vaughan, Oxford 1989, p.484.)

History talks: ‘The late Thomas Flanagan, author of The Year of the French (1979), claimed that “when we hold to our ears the convoluted shell of the past, what we hear are our own voices”. But, he added, there is a dialectic between shell and voice that emboldens the writer of historical fiction.’ (Quoted in Liam Harte, review of John Maher, The Luck Penny, in The Irish Times, 10 Feb. 2007.) Harte adds: ‘ Flanagan knew better than most that the historical novelist’s task is not only to recuperate the past to illuminate the present, but to challenge the reader’s perception of what history is.’

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‘Yeats, Joyce and the Matter of Ireland”, in Critical Inquiry, 2, 1 (Autumn 1975).

Opening: Ireland is an island of towers: its history is inscribed upon their stones. [...]
 We are concerned here with two towers. One is a Norman keep in the Galway barony of Kiltartan, some twenty miles form the western seacoast. The second, one of a chain constructd by the British to withstand a Napoleonic invasion, stands facing eastward towards the Irish sea at the village of Sandycove, a few miles from Dublin. Yeats's tower at Ballylee - Ballylee Castle as it was grandly termed - and the Martello tower in which Joyce lived for a few weeks in 1904, the setting upon which Ulysses opens, take on central and symbolic roles in the art of each man and enter also those shorthands of symbols by which we, in our turn, hold the two writers in our imagination.
 I propose to consider the very different manner in which each man came to accept his identity as an Irish writer. And this in turn involves some consideration of what for convenience we may term the “matter of [43] Ireland” [...]


Available online; accessed 27.10.2017

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Robert Hogan, ed., Dictionary of Irish Literature [enl. & rev. 2 vol. edn.] (Conn: Greenwood 1996), quotes the opening sentence of The Irish Novelists 1800-1850 (1950): ‘The Ireland of the nineteenth century was a fragmented culture, a dismaying and complicated tangle of classes, creeds, loyalties and aspirations.’ Further, ‘in its characteristic form, the Irish novel is an atempt to define the nature of Irish society and to relate its present graces and disorders to the island’s tragic past. The myths, justifications, and visions, which such novels embody, are attempts to reconcile in symbolic terms the conflicting elements of a culture at war with itself.’

The Irish Times [Obituary]: Thomas Flanagan, d. 21 March, 2002, aetat. 78; b. 5 Nov. 1923, Greenwich, Conn.; to Owen and Mary Helen (née Bonner) Flanagan, his f. being an oral surgeon; gm. Ellen Treacy Bonner an accomplished story-teller; ed. Amherst; served in the Pacific; entered Columbia Univ., NY; studied under Lionel Trilling and Jaques Barzun; m. Jean Parker (d.2001), a Lexington nurse, 1948, with whom dgs. Ellen and Kate; published The Irish Novelists (1959) [sic], based in a thesis and winner of Clarke F. Ansley Award; taught at Berkeley; visited Ireland on Guggenheim, 1960; befriended by Ben Kiely and Seamus Heaney then and in years after; set out a sequel to the first study and produced instead The Year of the French; started writing in his office while waiting for his wife to pick him up, by describing a man in a torn frock coat walking along a strand (‘not quite sure what he was doing’); successful RTE and French TV state series. (20 April, 2002.)

Helena Sheehan, Irish Television Drama (RTÉ 1987), lists The Year of the French [6 episodes], adpt. Eugene MacCabe. dir. Michael Garvey [RTE/C4/FR3] (1982). Also cited in evin Rockett, Cinema and Ireland (1988).

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The Year of the French (1979) is largely based on Bishop [Joseph] Stock’s narrative of the invasion of Ireland in 1798 by General Jean Joseph Amable Humbert (d.1823). For source material, see Grattan Freyer, ed., Bishop Stock’s ‘Narrative’ of the Year of the French, 1798 (Ballina, Irish Humanities Centre 1982).

End of the Hunt (1996), begins in spring 1918 and covers the War of Independence, fought on all sides with ruthless ferocity between the IRA and the British forces. The narrative is given in alternating chapters by Patrick Prentiss, a barrister who lost his arm in World War I; Janice Nugent, a young widow whose husband died at Gallipoli; Christopher Blake, a historian who becomes Janice’s lover, and the Frank Lacy, a ruthless soldier whose bedtime reading is Virgil. Other characters incl. Winston Churchill, Lloyd George and Eamon De Valera, often in their own words. The whole is dominated by the figure of Michael Collins, who is assassinated at the conclusion. (See Kirkus Reviews; online at COPAC.)

Hope & history: Seamus Heaney’s phrase ‘hope and history’ in The Cure of Troy (1990) appears to derive from the final phrases of Thomas Flanagan’s novel The Year of the French (1979): ‘it is in the brightness of the morning air, as the poet tells us, that hope and memory walk towards us across meadows, radiant as a girl in her first beauty.’ (Quoted in Benedict Kiely, ‘Thomas Flanagan: The Lessons of History’, in A Raid into Dark Corners, 1999, p.168.)

Improbable Probables?: John Harrington remarks that Thomas Flanagan argued for an essentialist approach to Irish literary studies and regards Deane and Kearney as overstepping the bounds of probability. (See Harrington, The Irish Beckett, Syracuse UP 1991, p.138.)

Namesake: Tom Flanagan is a Canadian authority on Indian and habitant history and culture - vide The Collected Writings of Louis Riel / Les ecrits complets de Louis Riel, ed. George F. G. Stanley [gen. ed.], Thomas Flanagan, Claude Rocan, 5 Vols. (Alberta UP 1985); Diaries of Louis Riel, ed. Thomas Flanagan (Edmonton: Hurtig [1976]), 187pp. A Thomas Flanagan wrote A Manual of British and Irish History (London 1847), xxxiii, 939pp., ill, maps., and the History of the Church of England (1857).

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