New Books from Cork University Press

Flann O’Brien: Contesting Legacies

Edited by Ruben Borg, Paul Fagan and Werner Huber

Employing a wide range of critical perspectives and new comparative contexts, Flann O’Brien: Contesting Legacies breaks new ground in O’Brien scholarship by testing a number of popular commonplaces about this Irish (post-) Modernist author. Challenging the narrative that Flann O’Brien wrote two good novels and then retired to the inferior medium of journalism (as Myles na gCopaleen), the collection engages with overlooked shorter, theatrical, and non-fiction works and columns (‘John Duffy’s Brother’, ‘The Martyr’s Crown’, ‘Two in One’) alongside At Swim-Two-Birds, The Third Policeman, and An Béal Bocht. The depth and consistency of O’Nolan’s comic inspiration that emerges from this scholarly engagement with his broader body of work underlines both the imperative and opportunity of reassessing O’Brien’s literary legacy.

September  2014, ISBN 978-1-78205-076-6, €39, £35, Hardback,  234 x 156 mm,  296 pages

Challenging the critical standard of O’Brien as a provincial writer, these essays reveal his writing as a space that uniquely complicates the old lines between stay-at-home conservatism and international experimentalism. Renegotiating O’Brien’s place in the European avant-garde alongside tensions closer to home – Republicanism, the Gaelic tradition, the Dublin literary scene – the collection reveals as outdated prejudice the dismissal of his talent as a matter of either localised interest.

Finally, the contributors excavate O’Nolan’s oeuvre as fertile territory for a broad range of critical perspectives by confronting some of the more complex ideological positions tested in his writing. Employing perspectives from genetic criticism and cultural materialism to post-modernism and deconstruction, the essays gathered in this volume address with new critical rigour the author’s gender politics, his language politics, his parodies of nationalism, his ideology of science, and his treatment of the theme of justice.

The editors: Ruben Borg and Paul Fagan are the co-founders of the International Flann O’Brien Society. Werner Huber was the host organiser of the 2011 Flann O’Brien Centenary Conference at the Vienna Centre for Irish Studies, the largest conference ever held on the author.


The Life and Work of George Boole: A Prelude to the Digital Age by Desmond MacHale

This book, aimed at the general reader and now available again, is the first full-length biography of George Boole (1815–1864) who has been variously described as the founder of pure mathematics, one of the fathers of computer science and discoverer of symbolic logic. Boole is mostly remembered as a mathematician and logician whose work found application in computer science long after his death, but this biography reveals Boole as much more than a mathematical genius; he was a child prodigy, self-taught linguist and practical scientist, turbulent academic and devoted teacher, social reformer and poet, psychologist and humanitarian, religious thinker and good family man – truly a nineteenth-century polymath.

October 2014, ISBN 978-1-78205-004-9, €19.95, £16.95, hardback ,  234 x 156 mm,  364 pages

George Boole was born in Lincoln, England, the son of a struggling shoemaker. Boole was forced to leave school at the age of sixteen and never attended a university. He taught himself languages, natural philosophy and mathematics. After his father’s business failed he supported the entire family by becoming an assistant teacher, eventually opening his own boarding school in Lincoln. He began to produce original mathematical research and, in 1844, he was awarded the first gold medal for mathematics by the Royal Society.

Boole was deeply interested in the idea of expressing the workings of the human mind in symbolic form, and his two books on this subject, The Mathematical Analysis of Logic (1847) and An Investigation of the Laws of Thought (1854) form the basis of today’s computer science and electronic circuitry. He also made important contributions to areas of mathematics such as invariant theory (of which he was the founder), differential and difference equations and probability. Much of the ‘new mathematics’ now studied by children in school – set theory, binary numbers and Boolean algebra, has its origins in Boole’s work.

In 1849, Boole was appointed first professor of mathematics in Ireland’s new Queen’s College (now University College) Cork and taught and worked there until his tragic and premature death in 1864. In 1855, he had married Mary Everest, a niece of the man after whom the world’s highest mountain is named. The Booles had five remarkable daughters including Alicia, a mathematician, Lucy, a professor of chemistry, and Ethel (Voynich), a novelist and author of The Gadfly.

Desmond MacHale is Emeritus Professor of Mathematics at University College Cork, where Boole was the first professor of mathematics.


Black Magic and Bogeymen  Fear, Rumour and Popular Belief in the North of Ireland 1972-74  by Richard Jenkins

 This is an analysis of a popular scare about black magic and Satanism in the North of Ireland between 1972 and 1974. The book gives an insight into a particularly grim period during the early 1970s in Northern Ireland, using an extremely unusual episode – the black magic rumours – as a privileged window onto a world that may now be behind us, but which continues to fascinate many readers.

Cork University Press September 2014, ISBN 978-1-78205-096-4, €39  £35  Hardback 234 x 156 mm 304 pages

During the closing months of 1973 Irish newspapers were full of dark rumours of evil witches stalking the north of Ireland, killing dogs and cats and looking for a blue-eyed, blonde-haired child to sacrifice. However, there were no witches, and no sacrifices, human or otherwise. The ‘witches’ were phantoms conjured up by an anxious, insecure and religious populace, terrified and spellbound by the brutality of the Troubles.

Drawing on archival research and interviews with key players, Richard Jenkins argues that the black magic scare was neither superstition nor gullibility. Encouraged by the British Army’s ‘black propaganda’ unit and embellished and spread by careless or credulous local journalism, the rumours fed on the brutal murder of 10 year-old Brian McDermott in September 1973, and gruesome ‘ritualistic’ assassinations in Belfast the same year. Fear was justified.

As the only detailed study of these troubling and fascinating events, Black Magic and Bogeymen sheds new light on the early years of the Troubles, and the sweeping transformations of Northern Irish society that began in the 1970s. It is a story that has largely been hidden until now.

Richard Jenkins is Professor of Sociology at the University of Sheffield, UK. Trained as an anthropologist he has done research in Ireland, Britain and Denmark. Among his other books are Foundations of Sociology (2002), Pierre Bourdieu (2nd edition 2002) and Rethinking Ethnicity (2nd edition 2008) and Social Identity (3rd edition 2008).