Fathers in a Coma: Father-Son Relationships in Neil Jordan's Fiction

By Grassi, Samuele | Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies, Annual 2008 | Go to article overview

Fathers in a Coma: Father-Son Relationships in Neil Jordan's Fiction


Grassi, Samuele, Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies


Abstract. This paper will analyze father-son relationships in some of Neil Jordan's novels and short stories. His writing often deals with this theme, as well as with the gap between old and young generations. His works are often built around the contrast between tradition and modernity, such as de Valera's idealised concept of Nation and contemporary, 'global' Ireland. Thus following a consistent trend in contemporary Irish literature, Jordan develops new narratives of the Nation. What do fathers do? What do sons do? How do fathers respond to their sons' actions and behaviours, and vice versa? These questions will be addressed and, possibly, be answered. In Neil Jordan's work, father-son struggles have their counterpart in the process of the revision of ideologies and norms of tradition (patriarchy and the Catholic Church). At the same time, they are accompanied by a strong feeling of belonging to Ireland as a Nation.

Key Words. Father, son, Nation, de Valera, ghost, identity, roles.

Resumen. El articulo analizara las relaciones padre-hijo en algunas novelas y relatos de Neil Jordan. Su obra a menudo trata este tema, asi como la distancia entre generaciones. Sus obras estan construidas a menudo en torno al contraste entre tradicion y modernidad, el concepto idealizado de la Nacion propagado por de Valera y la Irlanda 'global' del presente. En sintonia con una arraigada tendencia de la literature irlandesa contemporanea, Jordan crea nuevas narrativas de la Nacion. ?Que hacen los padres? ?Que hacen los hijos? ?Como responden los padres a las acciones y comportamientos de sus hijos, y viceversa? Tales preguntas seran formuladas, y posiblemente respuestas. En la obra de Neil Jordan, las luchas padre-hijo tienen su contrapunto en el proceso de revision d ideologias y normas tradicionales (patriarcado e Iglesia Catolica). Al mismo tiempo, van acompanadas por un fuerte sentimiento de pertenencia a Irlanda como Nacion.

Palabras clave. Padre, hijo, Nacion, de Valera, fanstasma, identidad, roles.

During a conference in Munich in 1988 on the Irish cultural panorama, Richard Kearney asserted that: "Yes, we have an identity crisis in the South. But at least we are trying to work it out in our literature" (Kearney 1988b: 213). Kearney also pointed out that Ireland's "transitional crisis" must be viewed as a consequence of the country's move to globalisation, and this implied a reassessment of its national identity (Kearney 1988a: 84). Irish contemporary authors, haunted by de Valera's ghost, have developed new narratives of the Nation in order both to re-gain possession of the concept of Irishness and of their own relationship with Ireland's colonial past and national history. The revision of traditional tropes and the shaping of alternative representations of individual and national identities lead to the deconstruction of stereotypes and 'typically Irish' re-workings of subjects and narrations silenced so far. It is in these borderline areas where everything new--new forms of representation, new identities--is defined according to its obsessive relation with the past that Neil Jordan's work has its origins. A novelist, short story writer, screenwriter and director, Neil Jordan is perhaps the leading exponent of what Gerry Smyth has defined as the "Pan Celtic Revival" in Irish culture over the last three decades (Smyth 1997: 175).

At a superficial level, Jordan's techniques are similar to Flann O'Brien, Aidan Higgins and John Banville's postmodern deconstruction of narrative language, something which Kearney has referred to as a "counter-tradition" in Irish contemporary literature (see Kearney 1988c). These authors fluctuate in a mid-position between Modernism and revivalism, a position which Kearney has called "mediational Modernism ... a collage of modern and traditional motifs, ... It may be termed post-modern to the extent that it borrows freely from the idioms of both modernity and tradition, one moment endorsing a deconstruction of tradition, another reinventing and rewriting the stories of the past transmitted by cultural memory" (Kearney 1988c: 14). …

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