"In the Company of Strangers," by Barry McCrea reviewed in the Irish Times

Barry McCrea“McCrea’s work, original, well considered and detailed, offers fresh insight into vital, complex texts and brings queer theory usefully into contemporary debate when reconsidering such influential works.”—Eibhear Walshe, Irish Times

The Irish Times’ recent review of Barry McCrea’s In the Company of Strangers: Family and Narrative in Dickens, Conan Doyle, Joyce, and Proust praised it for its rethinking of the role of the stranger in modern fiction. McCrea’s focus on the stranger and its disruption of the traditional concept of the family offers a new way of understanding the modernist novel. In particular, the stranger “offer[s] alternative modes of kinship and of connection for the protagonist.”

The following is an excerpt from the review:

As McCrea puts it, “Certain novels of Dickens, the Sherlock Holmes stories, and, on a grander scale, Ulysses and [À la] Recherche [du Temps Perdu] experiment with the idea of a stranger who is not a transitional figure who interrupts and then becomes family but one who is instead a rival to it, who offers a distinct, different kind of bond; a form of connection that cannot be subsumed into genealogy but might nonetheless offer a basis for a sense of time change and continuity.”

McCrea uses queer theory as part of his analysis but dissents from any sense that a queer perspective deals solely with the subversive elements of any narrative. “But if queerness is expanded, or reduced, to this subversive principle, a bug in the heterosexual machinery of narrative and signification, a mechanism of jamming, blocking and unravelling, then we avoid the structural question that is the central subject of this book: how might the world at large be narrated – as opposed to undermined – from a non-straight perspective?”

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