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Middlebrow Modernity: Irish Writers and The New Yorker in the Mid-Twentieth Century

Project description

Shedding light on the connection between Irish writers and The New Yorker

The New Yorker (TNY) was a magnet for Irish writers as they actively contributed to the American publication in the mid-20th century, helping establish themselves in the United States and abroad. The EU-funded IWandTNYinMID20thC project seeks to uncover the writers’ connection to the TNY’s post-war liberalism and how much this connection redefined Ireland’s isolated literary environment with respect to global modernity. It will leverage periodical studies and theories of middlebrow culture to develop a theoretical framework. IWandTNYinMID20thC claims that Irish writers connected with TNY because they all had doubts about modernity. The findings will provide the first-ever contextualised literary, biographical account of the connection between TNY and Irish and American writers.


This project explores Irish writers’ connections with The New Yorker, shedding new light on the literary transactions between the US and Ireland in the mid-twentieth century. I investigate how Irish writers engaged with the American metropolitan magazine’s post-war liberalism; I also consider the extent to which the connection with TNY can help us redefine Ireland’s “isolated” literary environment in relation to global modernity.
Many important Irish writers contributed regularly to TNY. While it is well known that the magazine enhanced Irish writers’ international standings, some critics have voiced concerns that the magazine’s scrupulous editorial process limited the writers’ experimentalism and capitalized upon their stories’ Irishness in order to appeal to a largely American readership. This criticism, however, risks overstating the popular magazine’s supposed “conservatism.” As a middlebrow publication that aimed to inform and entertain at the same time, TNY navigated the liminal—yet richly evocative—space between highbrow culture and lowbrow humour, revealing an ambivalent attitude towards both radical reforms and middleclass complacency. Drawing on periodical studies and theories of middlebrow culture to establish my theoretical framework, I consider this metropolitan magazine’s fraught relationships with the experimental arts and its intimate involvement in the experience of modernity. I argue that it was not TNY’s “conservatism,” but its ambivalences towards modernity that resonated with mid-twentieth-century Irish writers.
Re-inserting the fictional works of the Irish writers into the textual space of TNY—alongside the cartoons, advertisements, and journalistic reports—this project advances our understanding of the Irish short story in relation to metropolitan and transatlantic modernity. It offers the first fully contextualized literary–biographical account of the relationships between the TNY editors, the Irish writers, and their American peers.

Fields of science



Net EU contribution
€ 175 920,00
Oude markt 13
3000 Leuven

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Vlaams Gewest Prov. Vlaams-Brabant Arr. Leuven
Activity type
Higher or Secondary Education Establishments
EU contribution
No data

Partners (1)