The Judas kiss

Treason and betrayal in six modern Irish novels

By Gerry Smyth

The Judas kiss


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Book Information

  • Format: Paperback
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-2710-5
  • Pages: 264
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £16.99
  • Published Date: March 2018
  • BIC Category: LITERARY CRITICISM / Modern / General, LITERARY CRITICISM / European / English, Irish, Scottish, Welsh, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: fiction, novelists & prose writers, Literature: history & criticism, Literary studies: c 1900 to c 2000, Ireland, Literature, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Literature & literary studies / Literary studies: from c 1900 -


This book argues that modern Irish history encompasses a deep-seated fear of betrayal, and that this fear has been especially prevalent since the revolutionary period at the outset of the twentieth century. The author goes on to argue that the novel is the literary form most apt for the exploration of betrayal in its social, political and psychological dimensions. The significance of this thesis comes into focus in terms of a number of recent developments - most notably, the economic downturn (and the political and civic betrayals implicated therein) and revelations of the Catholic Church's failure in its pastoral mission. As many observers note, such developments have brought the language of betrayal to the forefront of contemporary Irish life. This book offers a powerful analysis of modern Irish history as regarded from the perspective of some of its most incisive minds, including James Joyce, Liam O'Flaherty, Elizabeth Bowen, Francis Stuart, Eugene McCabe and Anne Enright.


'The Judas Kiss charts a surprising path through Irish literature, but on every page its insights compel assent. That is the proof of criticism of a very high order.'
David Lloyd, Distinguished Professor of English, University of California

'Readers can't fail to be surprised, even astonished, by the mother lode of meaning and implication Gerry Smyth uncovers in The Judas kiss. The inflections of betrayal, treachery and infidelity he finds in modern Irish fiction, and by both implication and explication in Irish society, are shockingly numerous. Betrayal accompanies human nature and Christian culture, but is also potently Irish in its fictional and cultural incidence. The book cuts a broader literary swathe than its six subject novelists would suggest, and its critical imprint may well prove indelible.'

John Wilson Foster, author of Irish Novels 1890-1940: New Bearings in Culture and Fiction (2008)

'[.] the greatest compliment that one can pay a book: that it opens the way to further thinking. I certainly hope that this book initiates the kind of wide-scale reconsideration of the role of betrayal in Irish culture (and beyond), the potential richness of which Smyth proves in Judas Kiss.'
James Alexander Fraser, Modernism/modernity, Volume 23, Number 1, January 2016

'[.] a thought provoking and astute work of criticism which uncovers a sharp anxiety about loyalty that troubles the roots of Irishness in fiction and in fact.'
Edna Duffy, The Canadian Journal of Irish Studies, Vol. 41


Introduction: Betrayal and the Irish Novel
Part I
1. A short history of betrayal
2. Déirdre and the Sons of Usnach: a case study in Irish betrayal
Part II
3. 'Trust not appearances' - James Joyce's Ulysses (1922)
4. the landscape of betrayal - Liam O'Flaherty's The Informer (1925)
5. a spy in the house of love- Elizabeth Bowen's The Heat of the Day (1949)
6. Jesus or Judas? - Francis Stuart's Black List, Section H (1971)
7. 'Cangled both to treachery' - Eugene McCabe's Death and Nightingales (1993)
8. 'A family - a whole fucking country - drowning in shame' - Anne Enright's The Gathering (2007)


Gerry Smyth is a Reader in Cultural History at Liverpool John Moores University

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