Elizabeth Bowen

Edwin J. Kenney Jr.

1975
104 pages
ISBN 0-8387-7939-5
Contemporary Irish Writers

Elizabeth Bowen is another outstanding contribution to the Irish Writers Series. These monographs have been designed to treat in individual volumes the significant Anglo-Irish writers of the 19th and 20th centuries. The Studies will prove helpful to both literary scholars and to students of literature. When complete the series will constitute a significant history of modern Anglo-Irish literature, and will encompass discussions of nearly 40 writers.

The present volume examines the career of Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973), one of the few truly accomplished Irish women novelists and one of the most distinguished writers of her time. This study relates Miss Bowen's Anglo-Irish heritage and childhood experiences, described in Seven Winters, Bowen's Court, and The Shelbourne Hotel, to her fascination with problems of identity in such major novels as The Last September, The Death of the Heart, The Heat of the Day, The Little Girls, and Eva Trout. It begins with her Anglo-Irish girlhood, living on both sides of the hyphen and the water that simultaneously separate and join England and Ireland, and outlines the connection between this ambiguous circumstance of her background and the peculiar ambivalence, tenuousness, and intensity of her novels. The focus of Mr. Kenney's study is Miss Bowen's recurrent theme of man's primary need for illusion in order to create his identity and the ways that such illusions are threatened, generating in both life and art the sense of insecurity and terror.

About the author:

Edwin J. Kenney Jr. is an Associate Professor of English at Colby College, Waterville, Maine. A graduate of Hamilton College, he obtained his M.A. and Ph.D. degrees at Cornell University, where he was a Martin Sampson Fellow in English. He has published essays and reviews in The New Leader and The Nation, and has recently contributed an essay on George Eliot to the Norton Critical Edition of Middlemarch. With the assistance of a grant from Colby College, he traveled in Ireland and England, where he interviewed Elizabeth Bowen in 1971.

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