From the start, Jennifer Johnston’s deceptively slight novels aroused controversy about where to place her work in the Irish literary canon. An early article by Christine St Peter defended her against accusations by critics such as Mark Mortimer and Seamus Deane that her work was limited in scope (St Peter, 1991). Rüdiger Imhof, reviewing The Invisible Worm, summarised Johnston’s novels as “fraught with artistic shortcomings” (Linen Hall Review April 1991, 28). Yet many contemporary Irish authors have testified to Johnston’s influence on their writing and, in 2004, at the Joyce celebrations in New York, Roddy Doyle provocatively declared: “She is the greatest Irish writer. She writes perfect books” (

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Citation: Ingman, Heather. "Jennifer Johnston". The Literary Encyclopedia. First published 06 December 2011 [, accessed 21 September 2023.]

2390 Jennifer Johnston 1 Historical context notes are intended to give basic and preliminary information on a topic. In some cases they will be expanded into longer entries as the Literary Encyclopedia evolves.

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