The first collection of essays by one of the most important public intellectuals in Ireland.
Sean O’Faolain (1900-1991) was Ireland’s leading social and political critic in the period following the country’s independence from the United Kingdom. Since his death, scholarly opinion has alternately cast him as an arch-revisionist, a liberal nationalist, and a frustrated republican. The Selected Essays of Sean O’Faolain reassesses his reputation by showing that he wrote in the tradition of post-Enlightenment European intellectuals, and that while he was a significant figure in Ireland, his work extends beyond immediate national concerns.
This volume includes over fifty unabridged essays by O’Faolain on a wide range of subjects - from canonical writers to architecture, from religious scandals to economics, from nationalism to internationalism, from long-dead historical figures to recent controversies. O’Faolain’s fearlessness in taking on the major political, cultural, and religious figures of his day, his masterly use of rhetoric, and his intellectual acuity have contributed to his works being quoted often by scholars working across several disciplines. Many of these essays appear here in print for the first time since they were published in the foremost periodicals of their day. An extensive introduction and helpful annotations contextualise and explain them for a new audience.
In his re-readings of history and challenges to dominant historiographical trends, O’Faolain has become a pariah to some and a hero to others. The Selected Essays of Sean O’Faolain bridges some of these competing visions, presenting a more complex figure through his varied corpus of writing.