2004 Press Releases

11 Nov 2004

Molly Keane Centenary Conference at UCC 26-27 November

The Irish Big House novelist, Molly Keane was born in 1904 and this year (2004) the Department of English at University College Cork (UCC) will host an international conference on 26 and 27 November next.

The writings of this important literary voice within twentieth-century Irish writing will be explored and scholars of Irish literature from the US, South Africa, UK, Spain and Ireland will present papers on many aspects of her creative output, looking at a fascinating literary career which lasted from 1926 until 1993. This conference draws together contemporary critical perspectives on this unique voice in Irish writing, the subversive voice of the Big House novelist who charted the end of her class and the imminent collapse of a literary genre.

The Conference kicks off on Friday, 26 November with Molly Keane's daughters, Sally Phipps and Virginia Brownlow speaking at the Opening followed by Poet and Novelist, Thomas McCarthy, who will speak on 'The drawing room was quite another world': Molly Keane's Later Trilogy. This will be followed on Saturday with a full day of talks on a number of Molly Keane novels from a range of international scholars.


Molly Keane was born Molly Skrine in Co Kildare in 1904, part of what she herself described as "a rather serious hunting, fishing church going family". Her mother, Moira O'Neill was a well known writer, called the "Poetess of the Glens" and Keane herself published The Knights of Cheerful Countenance in 1926 when she was just seventeen. She used the name of M.J Farrell as a pen name, reputedly a name she had taken from a pub she spotted one day while out hunting. For Keane, the male name became a screen for her literary work, a necessary self protection within the distinctly unliterary anti-intellectual hunting world of the Anglo-Irish in the 1920's. Comic novels like Young Entry, (1928), Mad Puppetstown, (1931), Devoted Ladies (1934) and Full House, (1935) established her reputation, as did her most dramatic novel of the Irish war of Independence, Two Days in Aragon, published in 1941. At the same time, Molly Keane was also a successful dramatist in London's West End, working with John Gielgud between 1938 and 1961 to produce a series of commercial hits. After the death of her husband and the failure of a play in 1961, Molly Keane moved back to Ardmore, Co Waterford with her two daughters and gave up writing as M.J. Farrell. Finally, in 1981, she published, under her own name, the novel that is considered her master piece, Good Behaviour and found new inspiration as a novelist in her old age with later novels such as Time After Time, (1983) and Loving and Giving (1988). Molly Keane died in 1996.

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