The Trouble with Hindsight Comparing Depictions of Pre-Troubles Northern Ireland in Pre-1968 and Post-1968 Fiction

  • Barry McAuley

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis

Abstract

In this paper, I examine how hindsight concerning significant historical events affects the writing process, with particular reference to the case of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

I explore fictional depictions of Northern Ireland before the Troubles (pre-1968) and compare how novels which were written in that era (and therefore without hindsight) compare with novels written after the Troubles began. I go on to discuss my own attempts at dealing with the weight of hindsight in writing two novels set in Northern Ireland, the first of which, Black Dog, is a post-Troubles novel, while the second, Turquoise Car, is a pre-Troubles novel.

I have found that novels written before the Troubles are less self-conscious with regard to depicting sectarian tension in Northern Ireland, with some novels featuring strong (unrestrained) depictions, and other novels choosing to exclude the topic.

In novels written post-Troubles, i.e. those with a retrospective viewpoint, I have found that both the writing and the reading of the novel appears heavily weighted with the burden of hindsight, such that the authenticity of naturalistic, everyday elements is, in some cases, questionable.

I have concluded that writing naturalistic fiction about pre-Troubles Northern Ireland demands careful consideration of how hindsight can skew or constrain the work, and that it is not possible to exclude sectarian depictions in a way which was possible for writers writing before the Troubles.

Interviews with two of the novelists discussed – Glenn Patterson and Deirdre Madden – can be found in the appendices.
Date of AwardAug 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of South Wales
SupervisorChristopher Meredith (Supervisor)

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