Counterrealism in Modern and Contemporary Irish Literature and Film
Submitting InstitutionSt Mary's University, Twickenham
Unit of AssessmentCommunication, Cultural and Media Studies, Library and Information Management
Summary Impact TypeCultural
Research Subject Area(s)
Language, Communication and Culture: Cultural Studies, Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies
Summary of the impact
This case study focuses primarily on Dr Keith Hopper's work on Flann
O'Brien and Neil Jordan. It demonstrates his re-evaluation of modern and
contemporary Irish writers and filmmakers, combined with his accessible
exploration of the interfaces between fiction and film. Hopper's research
focuses on formally innovative texts which challenge the dominant
conventions of Irish and international realism. This impacts on the public
understanding of Irish culture through Hopper's extensive print reviews,
as well as his public lectures for adult education and non-academic
audiences. Based at the St Mary's Centre for Irish Studies (CIS) since
August 2012, the impact from research undertaken in 2012-13 draws,
unsurprisingly, on his already established research. As an essayist,
editor, broadcaster and speaker, Hopper has a proven commitment to adult
education, online and distance learning, and the public dissemination of
The underpinning research relates to three overlapping, ongoing projects:
(i) Hopper's long-standing work on Flann O'Brien; (ii) his more recent
doctoral work on Neil Jordan; and (iii) his interdisciplinary work on
(i) Hopper has published three book-length works on Flann O'Brien, on
whom he is a recognised world authority. The revised 2nd edition of his
monograph, Flann O'Brien: A Portrait of the Artist a Young
Post-modernist (Cork: Cork UP, 2009), reconfigures O'Brien as a
highly subversive writer, and identifies The Third Policeman as
one of the earliest examples of post-modernist fiction.
In 2011, Hopper co-edited a special Flann O'Brien centenary issue of The
Review of Contemporary Fiction (Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press),
which includes essays by scholars from Ireland, Britain, the US, the Czech
Republic, Spain, France, Singapore and Australia. It was awarded the
International Flann O'Brien Society Award for Best Book, 2011-12.
In 2013, during his tenure as Research Fellow at the CIS, Hopper
co-edited The Short Fiction of Flann O'Brien (Illinois: Dalkey
Archive Press). This anthology features an inclusive selection of
O'Brien's short stories (written under several pseudonyms), as well as his
final unfinished novel. It also includes new translations of stories
originally published in Irish and other previously unpublished pieces.
Hopper has published numerous essays on O'Brien, including a chapter in Literature
and Ethics: Questions of Responsibility in Literary Studies (New
York: Cambria Press, 2009) and an article in Printed Project 12: Virtual
Fictional (Dublin, July 2010). His forthcoming publications include
the lead chapter in Flann O'Brien: Contesting Legacies (Cork: Cork
UP, 2014). This research links in with CIS colleagues Dr Richard Mills and
Dr Anne Goudsmit, who both work in the area of modern and contemporary
(ii) Hopper's work on Neil Jordan centres on his DPhil dissertation
(awarded February 2013). This will be published by Oxford University Press
in 2014 under the title Imagining Otherwise: Neil Jordan's Fictions
and Films. Much has been written about Jordan's film work, although
his fiction has been less well served. While this monograph does examine
Jordan's films, the primary focus is on the literary texts. Jordan's
counterrealist fiction is considered in terms of the Irish literary
tradition, and in the broader context of Irish politics and history.
Hopper has also published numerous articles on Jordan, including, most
recently, an article in Litteraria Pragensia (December 2012) and a
chapter in Shadows of the Gunmen: Violence and the Modern Irish
Experience (Cork: Cork UP, 2008). This research links at CIS to Prof
Lance Pettitt, who has also written on Jordan's films and non-realist
film-work of Thaddeus O'Sullivan and John T. Davis.
(iii) Prior to 2008, Hopper was the general editor of the of the
twelve-volume Ireland into Film series (Cork UP, 2001-2007), which
examined adaptations of Irish literary classics. Authors commissioned
include internationally-renowned scholars such as Colin MacCabe, Margot
Norris, Cheryl Herr, and Lance Pettitt (whose 2001 volume appeared in the
series). This ongoing research on adaptation ties in well with essays by
Pettitt on William Trevor (2013) and by Mills on Bernard MacLaverty
(2014). Hopper's recent writing on adaptation includes an article in Danny
Boyle: Interviews (Mississippi: University Press of Mississippi,
2011), and a chapter on Aidan Higgins and Harold Pinter in Aidan
Higgins, the Fragility of Form: Critical Essays and Observations
(Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press, 2010).
References to the research
1. [Monograph] Flann O'Brien: A Portrait of the Artist a Young
Post-modernist. Revised 2nd edition, with a foreword by J. Hillis
Miller. Cork: Cork UP, 2009. 290pp. [ISBN-13: 978-1-85918-487-5] REF2
2. [Peer-reviewed article (and journal co-editor)] `"A Postcard from the
Homeland": Neil Jordan's The Past (1980)'. Litteraria
Pragensia 22.44 (December 2012) [Neglected Irish Fiction
issue], 75-90. Ed. Neil Murphy, Keith Hopper & Ondřej Pilný. 147pp.
[ISSN 0862-8424] REF2 output.
3. [Book chapter] `Undoing the Fanaticism of Meaning: Neil Jordan's Angel'.
Shadows of the Gunmen: Violence and the Modern Irish Experience.
Ed. Danine Farquharson & Sean Farrell. Cork: Cork UP, 2008, 119-41.
[ISBN-13: 978-1859184240] REF2 output.
4. [D.Phil dissertation] Imagining Otherwise: Neil Jordan's
Counter-Narratives. University of Oxford. Awarded February 2013.
281pp. Available in Bodleian Library. Contracted for publication by Oxford
University Press, 2014.
5. [Co-Editor] Neil Murphy & Keith Hopper. Review of Contemporary
Fiction 31.3 [Special Flann O'Brien Centenary issue]. Illinois:
Dalkey Archive Press, 2011. 277pp. [ISBN-13: 9781564786463]
6. [Co-Editor] Neil Murphy & Keith Hopper. The Short Fiction of
Flann O'Brien. Illinois: Dalkey Archive Press, 2013. 168pp. [ISBN:
Most of the underpinning research above has been published by university
presses in the UK, Ireland and the US, or peer-review journals or was part
of an Oxford University doctorate, with rigorous peer-review. Non-academic
reviews of A Portrait of the Artist a Young Post-modernist
include: `Hopper makes his point with enviable ingenuity and pervasive
force. He wears his stupendous erudition and expertise lightly and writes
in a style that is sheer delight.... Hopper has managed that rarest of
feats: a scientific study from which both the expert and the layman can
profit copiously' (Irish Times); `Hopper is a good explicator, his
approach is illuminating and such enthusiasm is infectious' (TLS);
`a superb academic dismantling of O'Brien's novels' (Books Ireland);
`This study is impressive, even brilliant, in its scope, thoroughness,
mastery, and persuasiveness' (CHOICE Reviews Online).
Non-academic reviews of The Short Fiction of Flann O'Brien
include: `The editors call their collection "an initial act of recovery
rather than a completist project," but it comprises a significant chunk of
O'Brien's scattered œuvre' (New Yorker); `The variety taken
together displays a playful, sardonic voice that is charmingly
self-conscious in its invention' (Publishers Weekly); `a gleeful
miscellany' (Wall Street Journal); `The editors... have done a
thorough and conscientious job' (Guardian); `In so lovingly
collecting and editing Flann O'Brien's widely scattered and almost
forgotten short fiction, Keith Hopper and Neil Murphy have done the study
of Irish literature a great service' (New York Times).
Details of the impact
Throughout his academic career, Hopper has been committed to
communicating his work beyond an academic audience, and has maintained a
particular interest in adult education and distance learning. From 1999 to
the present he has worked as a tutor for Oxford University's Department
for Continuing Education (OUDCE). He has taught twenty-four 10-week
courses for their Weekly Public Programme Office, specialising in modern
and contemporary Irish literature and film, and literary adaptation (his
courses since 2008 include `Flann O'Brien: An Introduction to his
Writings' and `Irish Writing After Joyce'). Since 2008, he has taught six
week-long summer school programmes for international students on Irish
literature and film. He has also written and taught a series of online
programmes for OUDCE, including, most recently, `Modern Irish Literature'
(2008). Hopper has directed and lectured on three Public Day Schools,
including `Modernism and the City' (9 February 2013), `"Make It New":
Modernist Literature' (11 February 2012), `James Joyce: New Perspectives'
(12 February 2011).
Hopper's research on modern and contemporary Irish literature and film
has been disseminated through books, newspapers, magazines, radio, and TV.
Prior to 2008, he contributed to two TV documentaries for RTÉ (on Flann
O'Brien) and Channel 4 (on Irish cinema). More recently, he contributed to
two radio documentaries on Flann O'Brien for Bookbound (Dublin
City FM, 2009), and Arts Tonight (RTÉ Radio 1, 2011): http://www.rte.ie/radio1/arts-tonight/programmes/2013/0909/473230-arts-tonight-monday-9-september-2013/?clipid=1307036
[listening figures: 15,000].
Hopper has written essays and reviews on Flann O'Brien for the New
Statesman (`With Love and Squalor' [`Critic at Large'], 15 August
2011) and the Irish Times (`The Balm and the Bane of the
Intelligentsia', 26 March 2011), and is a regular contributor to the Times
Literary Supplement. His influence in shaping the public
appreciation of contemporary Irish literature and film is evidenced in his
most recent articles for the TLS:
- `No Apologies' [review of three books by Desmond Hogan] (26 July
- Review of The Scattering by Jaki McCarrick (7 June 2013), 21.
- Review of Shall We Gather at the River by Peter Murphy (15
February 2013), 22.
- `Irish Slides' [review essay of two books on Irish cinema] (16
November 2012), 31.
The main findings of Hopper's research have been communicated to
audiences at cultural events, talks, and discussions at community,
national and international locations. To mark the centenary of Flann
O'Brien's birth in 2011, he was the keynote speaker at international
conferences held in Singapore and Vienna. Several other centenary events
were open to the public, including talks for the Woodstock Literary
Society, Oxfordshire (December 2011), the Irish Cultural Centre,
Hammersmith, London (October 2011), Trinity College, Dublin (October
2011), Birkbeck College, London (May 2011), and Sligo Institute of
Technology (February 2010). Hopper is also a member of the International
Flann O'Brien Society (Steering Committee, 2011-present).
This impact feeds into a developing network of links with cultural and
community organisations in Britain and Ireland, and further afield in
Europe and Southeast Asia. In June 2013, to mark the publication of The
Short Fiction of Flann O'Brien, the book was launched at the Irish
Embassy in Rome during the Second International Flann O'Brien Conference
(this event was covered by the Irish Times: http://www.irishtimes.com/culture/books/the-hard-life-meets-la-dolce-vita-1.1438055).
Other recent public events include an interview with actors/directors Mark
O'Halloran and Mikel Murfi at Università Roma Tre (June 2013), and a
public lecture on Flann O'Brien at St Mary's University College (April
2013). In February 2013, Hopper chaired a panel on Irish literature for Irish
Writing London at the Irish Cultural Centre, Hammersmith, which led
to him being invited to join the Advisory Board of the Irish Writers'
As part of the 2013 Irish Writers Festival, Hopper was invited to give a
public lecture on Flann O'Brien at House of Commons, London (8 October
2013). (Although strictly speaking this event falls beyond the census
cut-off date (31 July), the impact being claimed is evidence of Hopper's
research influence on the group of MPs who sponsored the event, i.e. the
All Party Parliamentary Group on the Irish in Britain, a body of
considerable significance in this context.
Sources to corroborate the impact
- Academic Programmer and Tutor, OUDCE.
- International Flann O'Brien Society, Vienna Centre for Irish Studies.
- Director of Irish Writers' Week, Irish Arts UK.
- Chair of the Research Committee, Institute of Technology, Sligo,