'Flann O'Brien and the Culture Industry' (Deadline 31 Nov 2014)

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'The Parish Review': The journal of the International Flann O’Brien Society

CFP: 'Flann O'Brien and the Culture Industry'
The Parish Review: The peer-reviewed journal of the International Flann O'Brien Society

As a writer who straddled the divide between modernism and postmodernism, Flann O'Brien appears to have had an ambivalent relationship to Western popular culture, veering from an almost Frankfurt School-type abhorrence of mass culture to gleeful postmodern experimentation with form, genre, and intertextuality. In At Swim-Two-Birds we find fictional characters rebelling against the plots into which they are forced by their author – lurid, sensationalist stories that the characters resent being part of – and various popular signifiers/signifieds are lampooned, most notably cowboy stories and the politicised imagery of Irish heroic myth. Under the guise of Myles Na gCopaleen, he played the part of a snob, not only mocking the vulgar tastes of the Plain People of Ireland, but also cocking a snook at the pretensions of Dublin's literati. At the same time, Cruiskeen Lawn was filled with Myles's take on aspects of popular culture, from badly-worded advertisements to the films of Walt Disney, Warner Brothers, and Fritz Lang.

As Flann looked into the abyss of popular culture, that abyss also looked back into him. Sly references to Flann's corpus abound: The Third Policeman's Parish appears in the appendix of Volume II of Alan Moore's The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (as a strange place visited by the series' protagonists, along with Laputa and King Solomon's Mines); Professor de Selby is mentioned, appropriately enough, in numerous science fiction texts (often in footnote form), and, of course, there is the appearance of a copy of The Third Policeman on an episode of the ABC TV series Lost.

A forthcoming peer-reviewed issue of The Parish Review (Spring 2015) will seek to expand upon the research already undertaken into the issues of influence and context in Flann O'Brien's work. Rather than focusing exclusively on genetic criticism, however, the editors invite essay proposals from multiple theoretical perspectives and approaches, the better to probe some intriguing questions about O'Brien's place in popular culture.
To what degree are his pronouncements on mass media and commercialised art merely ironic, and to what extent are they sincere? How did he feel about producing literature in an age of mechanical reproduction? How have authors, artists, and 'content creators' utilised his work? Has Flann had an appreciable impact on popular culture, or is he still a marginal figure, alluded to but seldom openly acknowledged?

Potential topics for essays include, but are by no means limited to:

  • O'Brien's engagement with/critique of popular culture
  • Popular culture's engagement with O'Brien – adaptation, appropriation, & homage
  • The distinction (or non-distinction) between 'high' and 'low' culture in O'Brien's work
  • Flann, genre, & form
  • O'Brien and cultural theory

Essay proposals of no more than 300 words should be submitted to theparishreview@gmail.com by 31 November 2014.Once accepted, the successful proposals should be expanded into essays, limited to 5,000 words and adhering to the Chicago Manual of Style, and returned to the editors for peer review by 28 February 2015. Contributors can expect to receive feedback by 15 April 2015.