Problems with Authority: the International Flann O’Brien Conference, CFP 1 Feb 2013

Problems with Authority:
The II International Flann O’Brien Conference
Rome, June 19-21, 2013


Jed Esty
(University of Pennsylvania)

Carol Taaffe
(Author of Ireland Through the Looking-Glass: Flann O’Brien, Myles na gCopaleen & Irish Cultural Debate)

Dirk Van Hulle
(University of Antwerp)

The International Flann O’Brien Society is proud to announce that a conference
on the Works of Brian O’Nolan will be hosted by the Department of
Comparative Literatures, at the Università Roma Tre under the title ‘Problems
with Authority: The II International Flann O’Brien Conference’.
It is an exciting time for the expanding field of Brian O’Nolan scholarship.
Despite the significant increase in O’Nolan events and publications since his
centenary year in 2011 – and even, perhaps, because of them – a great deal of
work remains to be done in exploring O’Nolan’s under-analysed minor texts
and in closing the many critical gaps in the academic record. At the centre of
these critical projects are explorations of O’Nolan’s texts as fertile territory for
mediating between conflicting Authorities: between traditional and modern
scripts, local and international perspectives, and between avant-garde and
conservative approaches to the authorities of science, history, and literary
tradition. With these issues in mind, the conference aims to address questions of
canonicity and authority in Brian O’Nolan’s work.
2013 sees the publication of collections of O’Nolan’s short stories (Neil Murphy
& Keith Hopper, Dalkey Archive) and dramatic works (Daniel Jernigan, Dalkey
Archive). As these collections give us greater access to a rich variety of
overlooked texts in the O’Nolan literary canon, they also prompt and challenge
us to broaden and retrace its borders. Indeed, given the amount of pseudonyms
and apocryphal texts in play, we might ask whether these borders can ever be
definitively drawn. Similarly, the vast collections of O’Nolan’s correspondence,
manuscripts, and drafts housed in Illinois, Boston, and Texas, – as well as The
Irish Times’s online digital archive – have recently given rise to emerging fields of
Genetic and Cultural Materialist approaches that seek to explore the borders of
authorship and authority in O’Nolan’s ever-expanding oeuvre.
And while longer-running critical conversations continue to be finessed about
the ways in which O’Nolan’s texts are shaped by towering 20th Century figures
such as Joyce and Beckett (and the more local authorities of Church and State),
the increasingly international contexts in which O’Nolan is being read have
brought a new set of names to the table: from Calvino, Borges, and Kafka, to
Nabokov, Danielewski and Bolaño. This international gaze brings with it other
issues, such as the challenges of adaptation and translation, and the
opportunities of exploring O’Nolan’s broader canon as a fertile ground for a
range of critical perspectives, from Cultural Materialism, Queer Theory, and
Feminism, to Metafiction, Genre Theory, and Deconstruction.
As well as keynote lectures by eminent scholars Jed Esty, Carol Taaffe, & Dirk
Van Hulle, the programme will include performances by Mark O’Halloran
(Award-winning screenwriter of Adam and Paul and Garage), and Mikel Murfi
(Director of John Duffy’s Brother). For more details as they emerge, including
social programmes and accommodation and travel details visit our website:
The organisers invite proposals on any aspect of O’Nolan’s writing, but are
especially interested in papers that explore questions of authorship and authority
in O’Nolan’s work, including, but not limited to:
Broadening the Canon
– Problems of canonicity and the reception of minor works
– O’Nolan on Screen and Stage: The forgotten scripts
– O’Nolan as letter writer
– Challenges in adapting/translating O’Nolan’s writing
On Whose Authority?
– Ideological critique & the comedic subversion of authority in O’Nolan’s
– Conflicting Authorities: The traditional vs. the avant-garde, the local vs.
the international in O’Nolan’s writing
– Writing Under the Influence: O’Nolan & his contemporaries
– The Clowning of Science: Menippean Satire and the encyclopaedic ideal
Theoretical Authorities
– Death of the Author: O’Nolan and Capital “T” Theory
– O’Nolan and theories of Genre
– Cultural Materialist and Genetic Approaches
– Male Authorities / Feminist Readings
– The Reception of Flann O’Brien in Ireland and beyond
Please submit abstracts and panel proposals to by February 1st 2013.

John McCourt (Università Roma Tre)
Ruben Borg (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Paul Fagan (University of Vienna)

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