Abstract

This article considers the biography of the pulp fiction author Robert E. Howard (1906-1936), with special attention to the unorthodox manner in which he constructed an Irish-American identity for himself. Howard was raised far from the urban settings that were familiar to most Irish Americans, and had little or no familial or cultural exposure to Ireland and Irishness Instead, Howard drew almost wholly on literary sources to perform an act of ethnic autogenesis. As such, his example stands as an alternative to the usual accounts of American ethnic identity, and complicates many received understandings about the Irish in America. The article looks at how Howard’s understanding of Irishness played out in the creation of his most famous fictional character, Conan the Barbarian. The article concludes that Howard might rightly be considered a significant author in the canon of Irish-American literature.

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