The modern Irish Bildungsroman: a narrative of resistance and deformation

Mansouri, Shahriyar (2014) The modern Irish Bildungsroman: a narrative of resistance and deformation. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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My thesis examines the ways in which the critical structure of modern Irish
Bildungsroman deconstructs and re-examines ‘residues of past trauma’ in the form of
socio-cultural, psychological, personal and notably political artefacts present in the
nation’s unfortunate engagement with the State’s politics of formation. The result is a
resistant and radical form which challenges the classical and modern specificity of the
genre by introducing a non-conformist, post-Joycean protagonist, whose antithetical
perception of history and socio-cultural norms contradicts the conservative efforts of
the post-independence Irish State. To examine such a resistant critical structure, this
thesis focuses on Roddy Doyle’s A Star Called Henry (1999), Dermot Bolger’s The
Woman’s Daughter (1987), William Trevor’s The Story of Lucy Gault (2002),
Seamus Deane’s Reading In The Dark (1996), Patrick McCabe’s The Butcher Boy
(1992), Frank McCourt’s Angela’s Ashes (1996), Edna O’Brien’s The Country Girls
(1960) and A Pagan Place (1970), Nuala O’Faolain’s Are You Somebody? (1996),
Francis Stuart’s Black List, Section H (1971), Flann O’Brien’s The Hard Life (1961),
and John McGahern’s The Dark (1965). The selected novels provide an invaluable
insight into the nation’s perception of sensitive concepts such as modernism and
modern Irish identity, and how the confluence of these two produced a critical
dialectical discourse which chronicles the formation of a non-conformist, ahistorical
modern protagonist. To achieve a historical relevance, this thesis starts by examining
Doyle’s fictionalization of 1916 Easter Rising and the chaotic 1920s; Bolger’s
exploration of a repressive, inward-looking post-independence Irish society in the
1930s and the 1940s; Trevor’s engagement with a socio-political divide that further
split the nation; Deane’s autogenous reading of an internal neocolonial ‘Othering’
during the ‘emergency’; McCabe’s illustration of the State’s architecture of
oppression, and societal introversion from the early 1940s to the 1960s; Edna
O’Brien’s and Nuala O’Faolain’s exemplary illustration of women’s blighted sexual
Bildung in the 1940s, 50s and 60s; and finally examining a radical, ‘chronocentric’
depiction of a socio-political divide fictionalized by Stuart and McGahern, which
emerged during the early days of the State and continued to dominate the nation well
into the 1960s and the early 1970s. By examining psycho-social, sexual and political
traumata reflected in the modern Irish Bildungsroman, this thesis provides a
dialectical reading of the gap that appeared between the revolutionary ethos of independent Irish identity formation, rooted in the principles of 1916 Rising and the
1920s, and that which appeared in the form of a tolerant republicanism in the 1980s.
To study this socio-historical gap, I examine the nation’s criticism of the State’s
politics and structure of formation, manifested in narratives of individual and national
formation. The modern Irish Bildungsroman, I argue, appropriates the traditional
features of the genre, for instance, chronicling the individual’s psychosocial formation
and the potential to re-engage with their society, and produces a critical matrix for a
dialectical discourse which enables the nation to voice their concerns vis-à-vis a
politically dichotomous post-independence Irish society, a repressed history, and at
the same time to externalize their perception of modern Irish formation, being
founded on an anti-colonial, non-conservative and politically aware consciousness.
The result, which I call the ‘Meta-National Narrative of Formation,’ is a historically
resistant and socio-politically conscious narrative which finds independence in
rejection, imposition, and deformation, namely, by defying the State’s architecture of
formation as well as their nativist, retrograde visions of Irish identity.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Arts & Humanities > School of Critical Studies > English Literature
Supervisor's Name: Kolocotroni, Dr. Vassiliki and Creasy, Dr. Matthew
Date of Award: 2014
Depositing User: Mrs Marie Cairney
Unique ID: glathesis:2014-5495
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 12 Sep 2014 14:18
Last Modified: 12 Sep 2014 14:24

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