Poet John Hewitt, 1907-1987 and Criticism of Northern Irish Protestant Writing

Author: Ferris, Sarah
Year:2002
Pages:244
ISBN:0-7734-7274-6
978-0-7734-7274-7
Price:179.95
This study questions the validity of John Hewitt’s prominence in Northern Irish Protestant writing and asserts the need for a more accurate history of this genre. Confronting the received wisdoms of a highly politicized discourse, it undermines Hewitt’s status within it as a matchless, acceptable Protestant for a critically re-visioned Ireland. Challenging the substance of Hewitt’s self-representations as icon of cultural liberalism, radical secular dissenter, and verse-apologist for the ‘Planter condition’, this book shows that his elevation over the majority of northern Protestants is tenable only within an incomprehensive history of Northern Irish Protestant writing that diminishes other important figures. The study provides a framework for a more equitable study of Protestant voices.

Reviews

“Trough detailed archival evidence and clear headed reading of often neglected source materials, the book exposes the variously constructed versions of ‘John Hewitt’. Thus, new and important insights are offered into the life and work of Hewitt himself. These insights, however, serve the larger purpose of offering a convincing critique of the ways in which Protestant writing and culture of the north have been identified and represented. The book offers a convincing and radically new version of things which have, through carelessness and through design, entered the mainstreams of cultural description and been taken for granted as accurate. . . . It tells a good and extremely important story with scholarly authority and sharp intelligence.” – Desmond Graham

“. . . Ferris shrewdly analyses the literary and social context that gave rise to Hewitt’s burgeoning reputation, and outlines how his work was almost made to measure for the times and their requirements. In all of this, she is scrupulously fair to Hewitt’s aesthetic, and offers intelligent and clear-sighted readings of all aspects of his work. Her bibliography is comprehensive, the writing style is fluid and there is a degree of mastery of the subject matter which makes this densely-argued work quite easy to read. . . it will long remain the standard work on Hewitt and his reception as an artist.” – Eugene O’Brien