Type of Culminating Activity
Master of Arts in English, Literature
In nineteenth-century Ireland, the Celtic Revival established an Irish identity in opposition to British colonialism through a nativist construction of true Irishness based on premodern, precolonial Celtic mythology, language, and culture. This created a primitive Irish identity situated in a binomial dialectic with a civilized British identity, establishing the Irish as an internal Other for the British imperial self. This effectively justified British colonialism as a necessary catalyst in a teleological progression intended to save Ireland from the uncivilized Irish. This thesis explores how Joyce’s appropriation of literary artifacts of Celtic mythology in “The Dead,” specifically the sovereignty goddess mythology and its subcategory, the aisling story’s spéirbhean, inaugurates the possibility of an Irish identity that counters the Revival’s self-Othering. Joyce achieves this effect by underwriting Gabriel Conroy’s modernity with premodern mythology in order to realize an identity informed simultaneously by both. The famous ambiguity of Gabriel Conroy’s final epiphany suggests that the Irish of the early-twentieth century were perhaps unable to achieve a truly discursive conceptualization of Irish identity, continuing to rely on the primitive/civilized binomial. However, by creating an awareness of the colonial binomial in Revivalist identity formation, “The Dead” inaugurates a new space of possible identity construction in the reader’s consciousness. As evident by Joyce’s influence on the work of contemporary Irish authors such as Paul Muldoon, Seames Deane, and Seamus Heaney, a truly discursive Irish identity—one that encompasses “all the living and the dead” of a multivalent Ireland spanning the premodern, modern, and postmodern eras—is eventually realized.
Ware, Robert C., "Towards a Hibernian Hybridity: Joycean Appropriations of Celtic Mythology and the Realization of a Modern Irish Identity" (2013). Boise State University Theses and Dissertations. 635.