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    Death and Dying in the Modern Irish Novel: Studies in Form and Meaning from James Joyce to Anne Enright

    English, Bridget (2014) Death and Dying in the Modern Irish Novel: Studies in Form and Meaning from James Joyce to Anne Enright. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    This dissertation examines how the modern Irish novel negotiates shifting cultural conceptions of death and dying across the twentieth century. Analyzing a cross-section of important novels — James Joyce’s Ulysses, Kate O’Brien’s The Ante-Room, Samuel Beckett’s Malone Dies, John McGahern’s The Barracks and Anne Enright’s The Gathering — my study will argue that the Irish novel has long grappled with the meaning of life and death in a world where religious and secular conceptions of the nature of life and death have continually intersected and conflictually coexisted. Though sometimes viewed as a wholly secular form, the novel in the Irish context has struggled to reconcile Catholic views of life and death that stress the importance of a “good death” and the rewards of eternity with secular worldviews that stress the importance of personal fulfillment in this life and that see death as a final and absolute ending. The novel genre may be secular in its general tendency, but it is also a dialogic form that puts antagonistic conceptions of death and dying into contention with each other, and it is the conflict between these colliding conceptions of death that lends modern Irish narrative fiction much of its interest. The story of death and dying in the Irish novel is not simply one of declining Catholicism and rising secularism. This study shows that while Irish Catholic notions of death and dying were always challenged by alternative secular value systems, these secular value systems have also struggled to find meaningful alternatives to religious notions of death. Death and Dying in the Modern Irish Novel is part of a wider body of criticism that deal with the meaning and function of death in the modern novel such as Garrett Stewart’s Death Sentences: Style of Dying in British Fiction and Frederick Hoffman’s The Mortal No: Death and the Modern Imagination. This study makes a distinctive contribution to this scholarship by focusing on the specific way that death shapes the structure, form and development of the Irish novel and how these novelistic depictions interrogate existing cultural attitudes towards death and dying.

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Death; Dying; Modern Irish Novel; Studies; Form; Meaning; James Joyce; Anne Enright;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Arts & Humanities > School of English, Media & Theatre Studies > English
    Item ID: 10361
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 04 Jan 2019 14:22
      Use Licence: This item is available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non Commercial Share Alike Licence (CC BY-NC-SA). Details of this licence are available here

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