Nailing Theses: The Selected Essays

Alan Titley

About the book…

Alan Titley is one of Ireland's pre-eminent literary scholars.

Provocatively recalling the defiant act of reformer Martin Luther, Nailing Theses is a collection of essays in the English language dealing largely with the culture, literature and politics of Ireland.

As one would expect from the man, the essays are, by turns, generous, open-hearted, witty, bracingly combative and daunting in their intellectual rigour. whether writing of Frank O'Connor, Padraic O Conaire, Mairtin O Cadhain, the influence of the Russian greats on Irish literature, the philosophy of Wittgenstein, the GAA or the pulp literaqture of the Northern Irish ‘Troubles’, his explorations are exhilarating and insightful, challenging the accepted critical orthodoxies and the lazy discourses of so much literary criticism.

But the essays are also fascinating journeys into the psychic landscape of Gaelic Ireland. Never intimidating in his erudition, Titley takes the reader by the hand and shows wonders. He is a critic who delights in saying: 'This is how it seems to me. Now does it strike you?'

Nailing Theses represents literary criticism at its best and most essential.

Photo of the author, Alan Titley

About the author…

Alan Titley is a novelist, story writer, playwright and scholar. He has also written and presented documentary films on literary and historical subjects, and has been writing a weekly column for The Irish Times on current and cultural affairs since 2003.

He was born and raised in the city of Cork, where he studied to be a primary school teacher. His work took him to Nigeria where he taught during the Biafran War. While there he travelled extensively across West Africa through both jungle and desert. He returned and taught deaf children in Dublin while studying for an evening degree at University College Dublin. 

Alan was appointed lecturer of Irish at St Patrick’s College, Drumcondra in 1974, and became Head of Department in 1981. He was later named Professor of Modern Irish at University College Cork in 2006, a position from which he has recently retired. He was elected a Member of the Royal Irish Academy in 2012.

He writes mainly in Irish, but Lagan Press has published a selection of his stories and fables in English in the anthology Parabolas (2005), and a large selection of his critical and cultural essays in Nailing Theses (2011). His six novels include two for children, one of which Amach (‘Out’) won the Éilís Dillon Award in 2004, and his latest Smuf (2012) concerns a dog with a muffled bark who has been abandoned by its owners. 

Two of his novels have an African background: Méirscrí na Treibhe (‘Tribal Scars’ 1978) deals with troubling politics in a newly independent African state; and Gluaiseacht (‘Moving’ 2009) tells the story of young African children leaving their home for a new life in Europe. 

His plays include Tagann Godot (‘Godot Turns Up’ 2002), which is a sequel to Samuel Beckett’s famous drama, and was produced in the Abbey Peacock in Dublin. An Ghráin agus an Ghruaim (‘The Hate and the Horrors’ 1999) won the BBC Stewart Parker Award and is included in Na Drámaí Garbha (‘The Rough Plays’ 2011) a collection portraying the isolation and despair of rural life, each one of which has been produced professionally.

Scéal na Gaeilge (‘The Story of Irish’), a two-part film, was shown in 2012 on TG4, and profiles the course of the Irish language from before the dawn of our history right up to the present day. It was written and presented by Alan, who also wrote prize-winning documentaries on Liam O’Flaherty, Máirtín Ó Direáin and Máirtín Ó Cadhain. 

These reflect his scholarly interests in all aspects of modern Irish literature from the thirteenth century on, with a particular emphasis on contemporary writing. Lagan has also published a collection of his critical and cultural essays in Chun Doirne (‘Fisticuffs’ 1996). He has also a lively interest in Scottish literature and as a Corkman is very proud to say that he is being published in the second city of Ireland.