Book Look:

“Irish Cosmopolitanism: Location and Dislocation in James Joyce, Elizabeth Bowen, and Samuel Beckett” by Nels Pearson

For any of you who have had the pleasure of taking one of Dr. Pearson’s classes, particularly Irish Literature, you will know what I mean when I say he has a true passion for his work. This book reflects that passion for Irish literature as he navigates the choppy waters of the development of the modern Irish writer, as epitomized by James Joyce, Elizabeth Bowen and Samuel Beckett.  These three writers highlight in their works the struggle between embracing the world at large and retaining one’s national identity.  In fact, as Pearson argues, it is this very overlap that creates Irish modernism.  There is a yearning within their characters as they constantly evolve, looking for the global future, yet are still tied to their native roots.

Pearson posits that you must travel away from your country of origin to truly grasp its identity.  He uses the example of Stephen Dedalus in James Joyce’s “A Portrait of the Artist of A Young Man” in that “his process of ascertaining an Irish consciousness….comes to co-exist with, to influence and be influenced by, his developing international consciousness and ideas about the human universe.”  What results from this intersection of national and international concerns is Irish modernism.

“Irish Cosmopolitanism” explores the changing term “cosmopolitan” in relation to Ireland’s history of decolonization as seen through the lens of quintessential Irish expatriate writers. It is a scholarly treatise, yet still lends itself to the average reader who wants to increase his or her knowledge of Irish literature. Take a further step and consider taking EN 161 (Irish Literature) with Pearson next year.  The course work spans from medieval poems to feminist writer Edna O’Brien to modernist Sebastian Barry. You will glean a broad understanding of Ireland’s tumultuous past and the brilliant writers that it spawned.

Come to the Fairfield University Bookstore on Thursday, Feb. 12 at 7:00 p.m. to meet Pearson and learn more about his new book.

Interview with Nels Pearson:

GW: What sparked your passion for Irish literature and history?

NP: Reading James Joyce’s works as an undergraduate and then going to Ireland were the two inspiring factors that led me to my passion for Ireland. I actually was studying abroad in Italy and went to Ireland for my spring break that semester and mostly traipsed about Dublin following the paths of Joyce’s characters.

GW: Have you ever lived in Ireland or have you traveled there frequently? If so, which area is your favorite?

NP: I have traveled to Ireland several times and co-taught a course there last year. My favorites are the west coast towns of Sligo (where W.B. Yeats was from) and Doolin.

GW: Are you planning to use this book in any course you teach?

NP: No. I think it is really too specialized or geared to graduate students and colleagues in the field. But I might certainly make smaller sections available for reserve/optional reading and put it on reserve for certain research paper topics.

GW: What is your favorite aspect of teaching at Fairfield University?

NP: I appreciate the balanced climate of active researchers and devoted classroom teachers.

GW: What topics are you currently researching that you will be writing about in the future?

NP: I am currently starting a new book project on the role of water (sea, crossings, coasts, maritime economics) in Irish 20th century literature.

GW: Who are your top three favorite authors?

NP: Tough call. Probably James Joyce, Samuel Beckett and W.B. Yeats.

GW: What books would you recommend to a person who is new to Irish literature?

NP: Great question. Wish we could crowd source my EN 161 students. I would say, for earlier 20th century works, Joyce’s “Dubliners” and the early poetry of Yeats. But for some great more recent stuff, anything by Roddy Doyle, Seamus Deane’s “Reading in the Dark,” Edna O’Brien’s “The Country Girls” and John McGahern’s “The Dark” and “Amongst Women.”


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