BOOK: John McGahern – Ways of Looking

John Singleton

Routledge, 2023

John McGahern (1934–2006) believed that fiction could act as a window on the world. Such windows, however, frame our fields of vision, alter and shape our perspectives. Far from being static, the artist’s perspective must continually evolve. This book provides a literary analysis of John McGahern’s artistic and poetic vision – his ‘ways of looking’, examining the shifting focus of this vision: how and why it develops, what effects such developments have on the work’s forms and how these forms evolve, at what times and in response to what stimuli. This volume demonstrates that such developments mirror an analogous social expansion during the latter half of the twentieth century and argues that McGahern’s literary spaces relate to his efforts to realise a more accommodating form to envelop the structureless society. While the number of critical studies on McGahern has increased markedly in recent years, research still tends to fall into the well-established camps of social realism or literary aestheticism. This text aims to explore the common ground between the material context and social worlds of each work and the hermeneutics of a ‘traditional’ literary investigation. It traverses such divides through close readings of McGahern’s work, with attention to the topopoetical production of images of the house, the home and the family unit. The book ultimately shows how attention to McGahern’s literary spaces provides a greater understanding of the aesthetic, vision and form of each novel and allows us to understand those aspects relative to the social, cultural and political undercurrents of the works individually and collectively.

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John Singleton was awarded his PhD in English from the National University of Ireland, Galway, in 2020. He has taught across various disciplines in the School of English and Creative Arts and the Centre for Irish Studies at NUI, Galway, since 2016. His main research interests are Modern Literature and Drama in English, Creative Writing, Irish Studies and Spatiality. His research has been published in the Review of Irish Studies in Europe, NPPSH Reflections and The Graveyard in Literature: Liminality and Social Critique