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    The Burial of the Dead: Atrocity and Modern Memory in James Joyce and Samuel Beckett

    Curran, Daniel (2020) The Burial of the Dead: Atrocity and Modern Memory in James Joyce and Samuel Beckett. PhD thesis, National University of Ireland Maynooth.

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    This dissertation explores how representations of dying and the dead in the fiction of James Joyce and Samuel Beckett sheds light on the evolving responses of these modernist writers to the legacies of the catastrophes of the Great Famine and the Holocaust respectively. The first half of the dissertation is concerned with Joyce’s Dubliners (1914) and Ulysses (1922). I argue that Joyce’s work testifies to the aftermath of the Famine both in its occasional allusions to the event itself and in its detailed account of the condition of post-Famine Irish Catholic culture, including changes to traditional funerary practices. With reference to Martin Heidegger’s writing on “idle talk”, I explore how modern print culture affects the social understanding of the individual death. This is reflected in the prominence of the newspaper obituary in Joyce’s fiction. I illustrate how his work explores and parodies these new discourses about mortality. I go on to argue in the second half of the dissertation that the trauma of the Holocaust is strikingly relevant to the suffering of the narrators and characters in Beckett’s post-war prose. I begin with a reading of Molloy (1951) as a meditation on the dilemmas of narrating modern death. Drawing on accounts of the impact of the Holocaust by Primo Levi and Giorgio Agamben and on influential readings of Beckett by Theodor Adorno and by recent critics including Emilie Morin, I suggest that as more survivor testimony and detail about what occurred in the concentration camps emerged in the 1960s, Beckett’s representation of death becomes more abstract and documentarian. The dissertation concludes with an exploration of this impulse to find ever more extreme ways to testify to the unspeakable. I suggest that Beckett’s experiments reach their culmination and also their ultimate extinction in late works including Ill Seen Ill Said (1981) and Worstward Ho (1983).

    Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
    Keywords: Burial of the Dead; Atrocity; Modern Memory; James Joyce; Samuel Beckett;
    Academic Unit: Faculty of Arts & Humanities > School of English, Media & Theatre Studies > English
    Item ID: 16881
    Depositing User: IR eTheses
    Date Deposited: 24 Jan 2023 11:00
      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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