Type of Document Dissertation Author McFeaters, Andrew V. URN etd-06212010-144038 Title How the Irish Ended History: Postmodern Writings of James Joyce, Flann O'Brien, and Samuel Beckett Degree Doctor of Philosophy Department English, Department of Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title Stanley Gontarski Committee Chair Andrew Epstein Committee Member Ralph Berry Committee Member William Cloonan University Representative Keywords
- Irish Literary Revival
- Irish History
- Irish Nationalism
- Postcolonial Ireland
- The Unnamable
- Malone Dies
Date of Defense 2010-04-30 Availability unrestricted AbstractHow the Irish Ended History: Postmodern Writings of James Joyce, Flann O’Brien, and Samuel Beckett, forming a pun based on Thomas Cahill’s popular book, How the Irish Saved Civilization, takes as its subject, not the monks who preserved history through scholarly diligence during the so-called Dark Ages, but three 20th Century Irish writers who, in reaction to the ideological pressures and limits of Irish nationalist forces, marry cultural representation with experimental writing with the following result: the end of history.
James Joyce, Flann O’Brien (nom de plume of Brian Ó Nualláin), and Samuel Beckett interrogate and complicate the notion of the archive as that which stores and disseminates factive and fictive histories. While Joyce’s Finnegans Wake, through the collapse of the real and the imaginary in the image of the museyroom (museum), formulates the cure to Stephen Dedalus’s nightmare in Ulysses, history being the “nightmare from which [he is] trying to wake,” O’Brien’s The Third Policeman and The Dalkey Archive corrupt reality with alternative histories that recover the heretical thinking of the nonlinear. The supernatural world of The Third Policeman is, in fact, the product of a bureaucratic machine that rewrites the laws of time and space; whereas The Dalkey Archive reduces the eschatological and the catastrophic to the quotidian and the anticlimactic. Finally, Beckett contracts history into the moment of memory, complicating distinctions between excavation and invention in consciousness itself. While Krapp’s Last Tape and That Time expose nostalgia as conscious, creative event, What Where and Catastrophe gesture towards a moment that has yet to be staged. Beckett’s Three Novels, on the other hand, unseats the image from distinctions between recollection, imagination, and perception as it suggests a new kind of non-representational image in place of narrative subjectivity.
The writings of Joyce, O’Brien, and Beckett effect critiques of conventionalized modes of historicity through discursive maneuvers. By destabilizing signifying relations, constructing systems of paradox, and complicating figures of archives, their writings produce a radical reconfiguration of historical understanding that supplants linearity with an aesthetics of simultaneity. The figure of the archive plays a central role in the historical dynamism generated by these authors’ works, as it gestures beyond its function as mere repository of past events and formulates a historical sensibility that prefigures postmodern conditions.
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