ACIS Logo All on Show: The Circus in Irish Literature and Culture

History weaves in and out of the literary criticism that is at the heart of All on Show – not just the history of the circus itself, but also the history of Ireland from the late eighteenth century to the present. The book includes a great range of archival material. There’s an election poster printed in support of the Cumann na nGaedhael’s 1932 campaign which casts Éamon de Valera and his colleagues as circus acts, and details of the little magazine with encyclopaedic ambitions produced for the Circus Association of Ireland in the 1990s. Snippets of letters, director’s notes and manuscript drafts illuminate the poems, plays and novels. The book is also richly illustrated with paintings and photographs made by Jack Yeats, Seago and the Magnum photographer Bruce Davidson. Among its most outstanding are the interviews that Lybeck has conducted with major living writers and artists, including Owen Roe, Neil Jordan, Muldoon and Banville. ‘The circus was a life outside life,’ says Banville as he reflects on performances he saw as a child. Lybeck invites us to explore that other life; that other world. Never before has the circus been treated with such seriousness as a theme in Irish writing. As a result, All on Show, offers readers the opportunity to reflect on changes in Irish culture and society from a unique perspective: one that is at once dazzling and unsettling; demoralising and enchanting.

Eleanor Lybeck is a lecturer in English literature at the University of Oxford. She is a BBC Radio 3 New Generation Thinker and co-director of the production company Sidelong Glance.

From the readers report: This is a book to be published as soon as possible… the manuscript promises a book that will constitute an important and ground-breaking critical intervention in Irish studies. It is a pleasure to read and I strongly recommend its publication.”

Published on: April 16, 2019