New Book: Excess in Modern Irish Writing: Spirit and Surplus by Michael McAteer, from Palgrave-Macmillan.

Michael McAteer, Excess in Modern Irish Writing: Spirit and Surplus (Palgrave-Macmillan, 2020).

This book examines the topic of excess in modern Irish writing in terms of mysticism, materialism, myth and language. The study engages ideas of excess as they appear in works by major thinkers from Hegel, Kierkegaard and Marx through to Nietzsche, Bataille, Derrida and, more recently, Badiou. Poems, plays and fiction by a wide range of Irish authors are considered. These include works by Oscar Wilde, W. B. Yeats, G. B. Shaw, Patrick Pearse, James Joyce, Sean O’Casey, Louis MacNeice, Samuel Beckett, Elizabeth Bowen, Roddy Doyle, Seamus Heaney, Marina Carr and Medbh McGuckian.  The readings presented illustrate how Matthew Arnold’s nineteenth-century idea of the excessive character of the Celt is itself exceeded within the modernity of twentieth-century Irish writing.


“In his brilliantly exposed and finely nuanced study, Michael McAteer demonstrates the centrality of various forms of excess in Irish writing from the period of the Revival to the present. His meticulous and incisive readings of a wide array of writers from W. B. Yeats, Oscar Wilde, and James Joyce to Elizabeth Bowen, Samuel Beckett, Glenn Patterson, and Medbh McGuckian unearth deep-seated connections between their works. Above all, McAteer illuminatingly theorises the multiple political and philosophical dimensions of excess as an animating and variegated facet of Irish writing. His arrestingly original account of the ongoing aesthetics of excess deftly reconceptualises them and invites us to revise our views of a host of texts.” —Professor Anne Fogarty, University College Dublin

“‘The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom.’ It was William Blake, most English of poets, who wrote this line in The Marriage of Heaven and Hell. Many decades later, Matthew Arnold identified the Celtic peoples with an extravagance of imagination and a stubbornly wayward refusal to confront the despotism of fact. By the end of the nineteenth century Irish writers, Wilde and Yeats at their foremost, were revaluating this association of Irishness and excess, rethinking Arnold through Marx, Schopenhauer and Nietzsche, as later generations of writers would through Bataille and Heidegger, to spin literary gold. In this remarkable study, written in a luminously clear style and with real critical verve, Michael McAteer makes several brilliant raids on modern Irish literature in the modernist and contemporary moments and on French and German philosophies of the abject and the ecstatic to show just how protean, productive and complex the concept of excess remains even today. McAteer opens a startling new turn in Irish studies where literature and philosophy, the material and spiritual converge in brilliant detonations.”
—Professor Joe Cleary, Yale University