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Inventing the Myth

This book approaches Ulster Protestantism through its theatrical and cultural intersection with politics, re-establishing a forgotten history and engaging with contemporary debates. Anchored by the perspectives of ten writers - some of whom have been notably active in political life - it uniquely examines tensions going on within. Through its exploration of class division and drama from the early twentieth century to the present, the book restores the progressive and Labour credentials of the community's recent past along with its literary repercussions, both of which appear in recent decades to have diminished. Drawing on over sixty interviews, unpublished scripts, as well as rarely-consulted archival material, it shows - contrary to a good deal of cliched polemic and safe scholarly assessment - that Ulster Protestants have historically and continually demonstrated a vigorous creative pulse as well as a tendency towards Left wing and class politics. St. John Ervine, Thomas Carnduff, John Hewitt, Sam Thompson, Stewart Parker, Graham Reid, Ron Hutchinson, Marie Jones, Christina Reid, and Gary Mitchell profoundly challenge as well as reflect their communities. Illuminating a diverse and conflicted culture stretching beyond Orange Order parades, the weaving together of the lives and work of each of the writers highlights mutual themes and insights on their identity, as if part of some grander tapestry of alternative twentieth-century Protestant culture. Ulster Protestantism's consistent delivery of such dissenting voices counters its monolithic and reactionary reputation.
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About the Author

Connal Parr studied Modern History at the University of Oxford and obtained his PhD in Ulster Protestant politics and culture at Queen's University Belfast in 2013. He was Irish Government Senior Scholar for 2014-15 at Hertford College, Oxford, and went on to convene and teach a course on 20th Century Europe at Fordham University's London Centre from January to June 2016. In September 2016 he became Vice-Chancellor's Research Fellow in the Humanities at Northumbria University. A board member of Etcetera Theatre Company, he has published articles in Irish Studies Review, Irish Political Studies, and the Irish Review.


In exploring the social and political contexts of northern Irish Protestantism, its inheritance of dissent (what Dawn Purvis, former leader of the Progressive Unionist Party refers to as "independent thought") and linking this history to the "literary imagination" and its "connection to the theatre", Parr has opened the door on the history of creative self-questioning and critical debate that is all so often passed by. * Gerald Dawe, The Irish Times * [An] important and ground-breaking book...For those who genuinely seek a nuanced and detailed understanding of [the Protestant working-class in Northern Ireland,] its political and cultural dynamics over the course of the last century, they could do no better than delve into this hugely rewarding book. * Stephen Hopkins, Irish Political Studies * Its one of the most important books to have been written about unionist 'identity' in Northern Ireland. * Alex Kane, News Letter * An impressive intervention in cultural history, highlighting dramatic writing from Sam Thompson to Gary Mitchell and beyond. * Roy Foster, 'The best books of 2017', The Irish Times *

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