The Popularisation of Literature in and from the West of Ireland

Dr Frank Shovlin has made a significant contribution to the development of public cultural heritage in the west of Ireland through his research on three particular Irish writers: James Joyce (1882-1941), John McGahern (1934-2006), and Liam O’Flaherty (1896-1984).

Outreach partnerships

To disseminate his findings, Dr Frank Shovlin has established outreach partnerships involving Leitrim County Council, the National University of Ireland and the Liam and Tom O’Flaherty Society which have engaged members of the public and helped to generate interest in Irish literary heritage.


The research on Joyce recalibrated popular notions of Joyce as a specifically Dublin writer and allowed readers to think of the writer’s uses for the West of Ireland of fact and of fiction. The key output from this research was a monograph, 'Journey Westward: Joyce, Dubliners and the Literary Revival', published in 2012. Central findings of the research were that, encoded in Joyce’s 1914 collection of short stories, Dubliners, are a series of references and allusions to moments of defeat in the history of the Irish west which are designed to lend the book an elegiac note.

This is a sparklingly written and unflaggingly enjoyable book, founded on a deep and wide-ranging knowledge of Joyce and his time

- Bernard O'Donoghue, Wadham College, Oxford

The work on O’Flaherty involves placing the Aran writer in a wider international context of London publishing houses in the 1920s and 1930s and considering the construction of a literary network with Edward Garnett at its centre and other Irish writers such as Seán O’Faoláin and Peadar O’Donnell as satellites. As a result of the research on McGahern, focused specifically on his allusive style and his uses of individual WB Yeats poems in his fiction, Frank, working with outreach partners, has promoted and honoured the work of McGahern in his home counties of Leitrim and Roscommon during an annual seminar and summer school at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

The lecture Frank gave on Edward Garnett in April 2014 in Galway City Library, entitled 'The Invention of Liam O'Flaherty', is available to view below:


The impact stemming from Frank’s research into these writers is of three broad varieties: 

  • Cultural
  • Civic
  • Economic.

His work has been brought to the attention of a wider public audience in the west of Ireland, with more extensive awareness generated amongst non-academic readers of literature about Joyce, McGahern and their links with the West of Ireland.

Civic activity and pride in Galway has been encouraged thanks to the newly highlighted connections of the community with James Joyce, one of the world’s great literary figures

County Leitrim has been promoted as a tourist destination by means of the annual McGahern Seminar.

Journey Westward: Joyce, Dubliners and the Literary Revival

Above: Journey Westward: Joyce, Dubliners and the Literary Revival (Liverpool University Press, 2012)


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