Northern Ireland: Post-Conflict Literature

Matt McGuire Dark Dawn ResearchResearcher: Dr Matt McGuire

Until recently, ideas about Northern Irish literature have been largely shaped by the poetry of the Troubles however the 1990s marked a shift in both the literature and history of Northern Ireland. With the advent of paramilitary ceasefires (1994), a Peace Process and the Belfast Agreement (1998), the country began the long and difficult journey toward political rebirth, social transformation and historical reckoning. Throughout this period it has been fiction, rather than poetry, that has been vital to the process of documenting and interrogating this new reality.

In recent years, critics have begun to identify new paradigms for thinking about this fictional rebirth. In her essay ‘Northern Ireland’s Prodigal Novelists’ (1995), Eve Patten describes a generational shift in the 1990s with the emergence of younger writers, born after 1969, with no direct experience of a pre-conflict North. In The Novel and the Nation (1997) Gerry Smyth locates in the 1990s a more overt challenge to ‘the received forms of Troubles narrative’ (116). Whilst, for Laura Pelaschiar it is the discovery of new fictional techniques, including pastiche, parody and irony, that have enabled the Northern Irish novel to emerge as a literary tour de force.

Why has fiction replaced poetry in this way? What is it about the novel that makes it conducive to the critical examination of post-conflict society? What is the value of literature regarding the broader process of political and social transformation? 

Matt McGuire is the author of two novels set in post conflict Northern Ireland - Dark Dawn (2012) and When Sorrows Come (accepted 2013). He is the editor of The Everyman Book of Irish Poems (2011) and has published a number of articles on this period of Irish literary history. These include: the aesthetic shift in recent Irish poetry with the advent of a post-Heaney generation (2009); the use of postmodern fiction as a way of challenging received forms of Troubles narrative (2010); and an analysis of the short story as a particular mode of Troubles fiction.

^ Back To Top