This book makes an original contribution to the study of modern Northern Ireland by examining the complex relationships among religion, literature and ethnicity since 1967. Patrick Grant focuses on a contradiction within sectarianism between the Christian injunction to love one's enemies, and the scapegoating, stereotyping and mirror oppositions that result from an annexation of religion to ethnic exclusivism. The introductory chapter provides a theoretical account of how literature engages sectarian prejudices by unravelling and exposing them in ways that can help to dissolve or mitigate the alienating effects of traditional enmities. Subsequent chapters combine an analysis of specific cultural issues with a critical assessment of relevant literary works by key authors: identity (John Hewitt and Seamus Heaney), marriage and education (Brian Friel and Stewart Parker), gender (Edna Longley and Medbh McGuckian), imprisonment (Bobby Sands and Brian Keenan).
A conclusion considers the Salman Rushdie affair, which directly affected Brian Keenan's imprisonment and which exemplifies the challenges of cultural relativism, secularism and religious freedom shared by modern Northern Ireland with many cultures globally. In general, a 'post-critical' view of religion is offered, welcoming the critique provided by secularism and maintaining that the varieties of imagination - whether literary or religious - can be liberative and mutually supporting.