“Nailed to the rolls of honour, crucified”: Irish Literary Responses to the Great War
The War Writings of Patrick MacGill, James Hanley, and Liam O’Flaherty
This book explores the war writings of Patrick MacGill, James Hanley, and Liam O’Flaherty, working class, Roman Catholic Irishmen, all of whom fought in the First World War as privates and who, collectively, it is argued, constitute a distinct trio of war writers. Through discussions focusing upon class, camaraderie, violence, religion, trauma, and the body, this book considers these Irish soldiers within a cultural, social, and historical context. Central to this examination is the idea that the motives for enlistment and the experience of army labor and even combat was such that military service was perceived as work rather than a duty or vocation undertaken in support of any prevailing doctrines of patriotism or sacrifice. The men’s Catholicism also shaped their aesthetic and philosophical responses to the war, even while the war conversely troubled their faith or confirmed their religious skepticism. The war writing of these men is located within both an Irish and a pan-European literary working class tradition, thereby permitting the texts to be viewed within a wider context than literature of the First World War, and from a perspective that goes beyond Ireland and Britain. These characteristics shape a perspective on the conflict very different from that of the canonical officer-writers, men such as Siegfried Sassoon, Robert Graves, or Edmund Blunden, whose work is considered alongside those of the three Irish soldier-writers.