Studies of Irish fiction are still scanty in contrast to studies of Irish poetry and drama. Attempting to fill a large critical vacancy, Irish Novels 1890-1940 is a comprehensive survey of popular and minor fiction (mainly novels) published between 1890 and 1922, a crucial period in Irish cultural and political history. Since the bulk of these sixty-odd writers have never been written about, certainly beyond brief mentions, the book opens up for further
exploration a literary landscape, hitherto neglected, perhaps even unsuspected. This new landscape should alter the familiar perspectives on Irish literature of the period, first of all by adding genre fiction (science fiction, detective novels, ghost stories, New Woman fiction, and Great War novels) to the
Irish syllabus, secondly by demonstrating the immense contribution of women writers to popular and mainstream Irish fiction.
Among the popular and prolific female writers discussed are Mrs J.H. Riddell, B.M. Croker, M.E. Francis, Sarah Grand, Katharine Tynan, Ella MacMahon, Katherine Cecil Thurston, W.M. Letts, and Hannah Lynch. Indeed, a critical inference of the survey is that if there is a discernible tradition of the Irish novel, it is largely a female tradition. A substantial postscript surveys novels by Irish women between 1922 and1940 and relates them to the work of their female antecedents. This
ground-breaking survey should also alter the familiar perspectives on the Ireland of 1890-1922. Many of the popular works were problem-novels and hence throw light on contemporary thinking and debate on the 'Irish Question'. After the Irish Literary Revival and creation of the Free State, much popular and
mainstream fiction became a lost archive, neglected evidence, indeed, of a lost Ireland.
John Wilson Foster is Emeritus Professor at the University of British Columbia. He was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland and read English and Philosophy at Queen's University Belfast. In 2004-05 he was Leverhulme Visiting Professor to the U.K. (University of Ulster); in 2005 he was Armstrong Visiting Professor at St Michael's College, University of Toronto; in 2006 he was Arts Faculty Visiting Fellow at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Among his thirteen
books are Forces and Themes in Ulster Fiction (1974), Fictions of the Irish Literary Revival (1987), Colonial Consequences: Essays in Irish Literature and Culture (1991), The Achievement of Seamus Heaney (1995), Recoveries: Neglected Episodes in Irish Cultural History 1860-1912 (2002), and The
Cambridge Companion to the Irish Novel (2006, ed.).