Ireland Through the Looking-Glass: Flann O’Brien, Myles na gCopaleen and Irish Cultural Debate (Cork University Press, 2008)

Ireland Through the Looking-Glass explores how Brian O’Nolan’s comic writing shaped – and was shaped by – cultural debate in mid-20th century Ireland. It argues that his fiction and journalism betrays a crisis of literary identity rooted in the cultural dynamics of post-independence Ireland.

This is a critical study of both Flann O’Brien and Myles na gCopaleen, the experimental novelist and the comic journalist. It demonstrates how O’Nolan’s self-conscious preoccupation with the role of the author was shaped as much by the difficult position of the Irish writer in the 1930s and 1940s as it was by literary modernism. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of O’Nolan’s multi-faceted career, charting his development from a playful and surreal humorist to an astute cultural critic.

Ireland Through the Looking-Glass exposes Brian O’Nolan’s ambivalent response to the culture of the new state, and particularly to the position of the writer within it.

Buy this book


Ireland Through the Looking-Glass is probably the most important work of literary criticism yet published on Flann O’Brien. For years to come, the most valuable scholarship in this area may well be a series of footnotes, however extended, to Taaffe’s formidable achievement.’

Joseph Brooker, Modernism/ Modernity

‘A meticulously researched, well-written and valuable contribution to our understanding of a complex and contradictory literary figure.’

Mark O’Connell, Irish Studies Review

‘This book represents a significant development in the field of O’Brien studies.’

Jennika Baines, Irish University Review

‘…[An] outstanding study of O’Nolan in all his various forms… a cause for celebration’

Donald E. Morse, HJEAS

Taaffe & Keown, eds. Irish Modernism: Origins, Contexts, Publics (Peter Lang, 2010)

Arising from a conference held in Trinity College Dublin, Irish Modernism (Peter Lang, 2010) is an interdisciplinary collection of essays on the emergence, reception and legacy of modernism in Ireland.

Central concerns of these essays include the critical contexts for Irish modernism; issues of production, reception and the marketplace; dialogues between literature and the visual arts; modernism and Catholicism; and the relationship between regional and transnational modernisms.

With contributions from established and emerging scholars, this collection introduces fresh perspectives on modern Irish culture that reflect new understandings of the contradictory and contested nature of modernism itself.

Buy this book