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On Coventry by Matthew Schultz

Book Launch at the Vassar College Library on Friday, October 23rd at 7:00pm – Matthew Schultz will read from and sign copies of On Coventry

A creative exploration of the past-haunted-present, On Coventry features a nostalgic protagonist who is at once homesick and sick of home. It is a bildungsroman that charts the progressively disenchanted relationships of Eliot Hopkins, his working-class parents, and immigrant great-grandparents as a way of mapping the economic and cultural decline of Cleveland, Ohio, across the 20th Century. The figure of George Simmel’s wandersmänner is at the center of this historical narrative about the entropy of American dreams and longing for auld lang syne in a once great city.

Though Matthew’s first novel, On Coventry provides the creative hinge upon which his scholarly work swings. His first book, Haunted Historiographies: The Rhetoric of Ideology in Postcolonial Irish Fiction (2014, Manchester University Press), identifies a set of contemporary Irish novels as historiographical fictions that revisit and revise the partisan architecture of Ireland’s founding mythologies. By juxtaposing canonical and non-canonical texts that complicate previous representations of four definitive events in modern Irish and British history (the Great Famine, the Irish Revolution, World War II, and the Northern Irish Troubles), Matthew demonstrates how the figure of ghosts helps authors to expose the process by which such history is constructed.

His next book will interrogate the role of nostalgia in 20th century Irish fiction. Like On Coventry, this project is particularly interested in ‘reflective nostalgia’ (to borrow a term from Svetlana Boym) and its significance as an enduring Modernist obsession in the work of contemporary Irish novelists such as Colm Tóibín, Mary Morrissy, and Sebastian Barry.

On Coventry transcends generations in a tale of serendipity, about all the lucky and unlucky events that lead up to each individual’s present. It asks us to think about how we all create the fabric of society, are influenced by and influence the places we’re from, and the necessity to empathize with one another despite (and, perhaps because of) our differences.

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