Introduction: Celebrating with Frank McGuinness

By Brannigan, John | Irish University Review: a journal of Irish Studies, Spring-Summer 2010 | Go to article overview

Introduction: Celebrating with Frank McGuinness


Brannigan, John, Irish University Review: a journal of Irish Studies


This year, the Irish University Review celebrates its fortieth anniversary. Established in 1970 by Maurice Harmon in University College Dublin, it built upon the foundations laid in a previous journal, the University Review (1954-1968), the organ of the Graduates Association of the National University of Ireland. The first issue of the new journal, 'a journal of Irish Studies', boasted an impressive list of contributors, among them Austin Clarke, John Montague, Conor Cruise O'Brien, and Sean O'Faolain. Since that first issue, it has become one of the leading journals of Irish literary and cultural criticism, publishing the best work by both established and emerging scholars, and focusing attention in its regular 'special issues' upon major authors and topics of common interest to the Irish Studies community. It owes that success to the diligence, passion, and vision of its four previous editors, Professor Maurice Harmon (1970-1987), Professor Christopher Murray (1987-1997), Professor Anthony Roche (1997-2002), and Professor Anne Fogarty (2002-2009), and to its longstanding, cherished partnership with the International Association for the Study of Irish Literatures (IASIL), founded in 1969. Like every major journal, it owes its success also to the many hundreds of people over the years who have given their time, attention, and energy to ensuring that the journal meets the high standards expected of it by its many subscribers and readers around the world. Every issue of the journal requires a small army of peer reviewers, advisors, proof readers, and helpers, who receive no payment, but without whom the journal simply could not exist. I know I speak for all my predecessors, and for the editorial, advisory, and management boards of the journal, in recording here our gratitude to all those who have made it possible for the journal to reach its fortieth anniversary, and to all those who enable it to continue, and to grow, hopefully for many years to come.

In assuming the editorship of the Irish University Review, I was given the happy responsibility of preparing this fortieth anniversary issue. Both Anne Fogarty and I wanted this issue to be a worthy celebration of the journal's tradition of publishing what our predecessor, Christopher Murray, called, in the silver jubilee issue in 1995, 'excellence and creativity in Irish literary studies'. We did not want it to be simply an ornament on the bookshelves of our readers, but a well-thumbed, dog-eared volume, a treasured companion. For this reason, we decided that this special issue should take as its subject an author who exemplifies the best characteristics and values of the 'living stream' of Irish literature, and whose work is as much loved in the far-flung comers of the globe as he is treasured in the streets he walks every day. Frank McGuinness is internationally renowned and revered as a playwright, and justly held in esteem and affection as a writer and friend, and as a colleague and teacher here, where I write these words, in Dublin. He is a star on Broadway, and still a familiar face in Buncrana and Booterstown. The qualities which characterise his art, evident in the vast body of work he has written from The Factory Girls (1982) to Greta Garbo Came to Donegal (2010), are the extraordinary virtuosity of his dramatic range, the subtlety and acuity of his imagination, and his passionate devotion to reinvigorating the springs of modern theatre, through his own, new plays as much as his adaptations and versions.

In the pages of the essays commissioned for this special issue, it is clear that there is no easy way of categorizing or defining the work of Frank McGuinness. The baggage tags of identity--Irish playwright, gay playwright, working-class playwright--are inadequate to describe a writer as comfortable in re-tooling the classics of European drama, or re-voicing the stories of England's past, as he is versed in the vicissitudes of contemporary Irish social, cultural, and sexual politics.

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