At 12:45 on Wednesday afternoon, February 15, Marilynn Richtarik will be discussing and reading from her new book Getting to Good Friday: Literature and the Peace Process in Northern Ireland, which has just been published by Oxford University Press. Richtarik’s talk will take place in the Troy Moore Library on the 25th floor of 25 Park Place, which is a few minutes’ walk from both the Five Points and Peachtree Center MARTA stations.
Getting to Good Friday intertwines literary analysis and narrative history in an accessible account of the shifts in thinking and talking about Northern Ireland’s divided society that brought thirty years of political violence to a close with the 1998 Belfast/Good Friday Agreement. Drawing on decades of reading, researching, and teaching Northern Irish literature and talking and corresponding with Northern Irish writers, Professor Richtarik describes literary reactions and contributions to the peace process during the fifteen years preceding the Agreement and in the immediate post-conflict era. Progress in this period hinged on negotiators’ ability to revise the terms used to discuss the conflict. As poet Michael Longley commented in 1998, “In its language the Good Friday Agreement depended on an almost poetic precision and suggestiveness to get its complicated message across.” Interpreting selected literary works by Brian Friel, Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley, Deirdre Madden, Seamus Deane, Bernard MacLaverty, Colum McCann, and David Park within a detailed historical frame, Richtarik demonstrates the extent to which authors were motivated by a desire both to comment on and to intervene in unfolding political situations. Getting to Good Friday suggests that literature as literature—that is, in its formal properties in addition to anything it might have to “say” about a given subject—can enrich readers’ historical understanding. Through engaging narrative, creative writing emerges as both the medium of and a metaphor for the peace process itself.