The Bell magazine and the representation of Irish identity

Kelly Matthews

Hardback €49.50
Catalogue Price: €55.00
ISBN: 978-1-84682-323-7
July 2012. 208pp.

[A] luminous and richly entertaining study … Matthews captures the plenitude of [The Bell’s] pages with a detail and subtlety to be found in no previous analysis of the journal … In this excellent book, Kelly Matthews reminds us that Sean O’Faolain was, despite his formal conservatism, a postcolonial intellectual par excellence. Her beautifully written study is a deserved (if only implicit) rebuke to those of us who have excluded O’Faolain from a more central place in accounts of the invention of Ireland', Declan Kiberd, TLS (January 2013).

‘Kelly Matthews’ book on The Bell is both a useful history of this influential Irish literary magazine and an insightful analysis of its mission, particularly with regard to the construction/deconstruction of Irish identity … The Bell Magazine and the representation of Irish identity is the first book-length study of this fascinating periodical. Consequently, it is a much-to-be-welcomed publication that fills a significant scholarly gap … A very useful list of Bell volumes and editors is provided in an appendix and the bibliography gives a flavour of the magazine’s diverse content … this book is a valuable contribution to the field of Irish cultural historiography that, in its discussion of the diverse and often fascinating range of material that made up The Bell, reveals the complex nature of mid-twentieth-century Irish society', Heather Laird, The Irish Review (Summer 2014). 

The Bell receives its first in-depth analysis in Kelly Matthews’ minutely researched, fascinating study of the magazine and its self-proclaimed role in trying to establish a more honest representation of Irish identity and everyday reality ... [when Matthews] starts to chart the magazine’s troubled, radical journey her book becomes a fascinating examination of 1940s Ireland', Dermot Bolger, Sunday Independent (September 2012).

‘[A] valuable volume … the magazine is portrayed as a forerunner of the revisionist movement in Irish historical and literary studies. Much of the focus is on O’Faolain, the founding editor … Under O’Faolain’s editorship the magazine saw itself primarily as a vehicle for social comment and a catalyst for social change rather than as a literary magazine, although it was a very important outlet for some of the leading writers of the day, including Patrick Kavanagh, Louis MacNeice, Elizabeth Bowen, Flann O’Brien, George Bernard Shaw, Brendan Behan, James Plunket, Thomas Kinsella and John Montague', Hugh McFadden, Books Ireland (September 2012).

The Bell set out with an editorial mission to describe Irish life, and the book looks at both conscious and unconscious ways the magazine helped to construct for its readers at home and elsewhere a particular vision of what it meant to be Irish … [it] is competently written and beautifully produced. Of interest to scholars and general readers with a serious focus on magazine publishing or 20th century Irish history and culture', Reference & Research Book News (October 2012).