Date of Award

7-17-2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

English

First Advisor

Lingyan Yang, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Christopher M. Kuipers, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

David B. Downing, Ph.D.

Fourth Advisor

James M. Cahalan, Ph.D.

Abstract

This analysis of Irish literature from the late nineteenth century through the early twenty-first century focuses, by employing Marxist theory, on the ideologies reflected in the adaptation of myth and legend. It traces the development of Irish society’s various adaptations as it moves from an English colony to an independent state. After my preface outlining the dissertation, there are two introductory chapters: Chapter 1 examines relevant Irish history and Chapter 2 advances Marxist and post-Marxist theory informing my critique of ideology. Chapter 3 (Celtic Revival to the 1916 Easter Rising) examines the hegemonic shift away from the Protestant Ascendancy class, reproduced in the time period’s literature. Pádraic Pearse successfully merged the theme of blood sacrifice and martyrdom with the Irish legendary figure Cúchulainn, codifying a new mythology centered on the execution of the Easter Rising’s leaders. Pearse’s Cúchulainn replaced the more genteel reflection of Protestant ideology found in the writers of the Celtic Revival, coinciding with the shift in Irish society after the Rising. Chapters 4 and 5 are both focused on how myth and legend were used after the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922. Taoiseach Éamon de Valera and his political party, Fianna Fáil, attempted to rid Ireland of outside influence by emphasizing a moralistic lifestyle, embodied in the Catholic Church and romanticized in the peasant farmer of the Irish-speaking Gaeltacht. Chapter 4 looks at how myth and legend were used by fabulist writers to satirize the nascent Irish government’s restrictive policies. Chapter 5 concentrates on how those writing in Irish depicted the erosion of the Irish language and the lifestyle of the Gaeltacht. Chapter 6 analyzes the “Troubles” in Northern Ireland and the ideologies embedded in the texts of the time. The writers of the Troubles were forced to confront the sectarian violence occurring around them, and these experiences are reflected in their literary works. I also trace the lasting influence of the blood sacrifice of Pearse’s Cúchulainn. I conclude by arguing that Ireland is now headed into an era dominated by visual media that will hopefully move to a more pluralistic representation of Irishness.

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