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Document Type

Open Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

English

Year Degree Awarded

2015

Month Degree Awarded

September

First Advisor

Margaret O'Brien

Second Advisor

Asha Nadkarni

Third Advisor

Michael Gorra

Subject Categories

Literature in English, British Isles

Abstract

This dissertation examines the artistic, historical and theoretical concerns that, for the past century, have shaped the Irish short story, the Irish nation and the body of criticism that mediates between the two. In Ireland, I argue, the prevailing critical narrative of the short story’s emergence and ongoing literary purpose has been bound up with the political narrative of the nation state’s decolonization. This process I view as symptomatic of a broader critical tendency to view Irish cultural narratives as inextricable from national ones, whereby literary interventions either are viewed as mere reflections of, or are assimilated to systems of thought preoccupied with, the national question. It is my contention that this overcoding of Irish culture by Irish politics has impoverished contemporary scholarship on the subject of the Irish short story, depriving it of an adequate appreciation of the historically longer and spatially wider cultural milieu in which Irish literary production actually proceeds. What I establish in this dissertation is an image of the Irish short story as a site uniquely sensitive to a variety of historical contingencies and intellectual preoccupations, of which decolonizing nationalism is but one. I demonstrate how the form came about internationally, investigate how it functions and evaluate the historical context in which it first emerged in an Ireland bent on decolonization both political and cultural. I then explore the form’s capacity to mount diverse and sometimes vexed interpretations of national culture in a range of short stories from the Irish Literary Revival and counter-revival periods, and critique the role played by adversarial political positions in those stories’ later reception. Finally, I consider the form’s growing preoccupation, alongside the rise of Irish feminist and postmodern scholarships during the latter decades of the twentieth century, with the tensions inherent between national and gender identities. In so doing, I demonstrate the ways in which the short story has been shaped in Ireland not by the unfolding of a single historical narrative but by the ruptures and disruptions of successive historical moments, and suggest how it may have helped in some small way to shape those moments themselves.

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