Folklore and the Fantastic in Twelve Modern Irish Novels

Folklore and the Fantastic in Twelve Modern Irish Novels

Folklore and the Fantastic in Twelve Modern Irish Novels

Folklore and the Fantastic in Twelve Modern Irish Novels

Synopsis

Ireland has given birth to some of the most admired works of world literature, and also to a fascinating body of folklore. This volume examines how conventions from Irish folklore have been used in twelve Irish novels published between 1912 and 1948. Among the authors discussed are James Joyce, Flann O'Brien, Mervyn Wall, Darrell Figgis, Eimar O'Duffy, and James Stephens. From the sophisticated satire of Joyce, as found in Ulysses and Finnegans Wake, to the tragicomedies of Mervyn Wall's Fursey novels, the intrusion of medieval Irish sources remains constant, suggesting a certain homogeneity in the novels' offerings of escape from reality through a world that belongs, in part, to folklore.

Excerpt

The serious treatment accorded to heroic figures of Irish folklore in the works of late nineteenth-century and early twentieth-century Irish Renaissance writers such as William Butler Yeats and Lady Augusta Gregory could not be sustained very far into the twentieth century. Near religious fervor vis à vis traditional Gaelic writings would be supplanted by satirical and parodic handling of Irish mythological source works. the traditional Gaelic hero would alternately serve as political symbol and buffoon; and the chauvinism exhibited by chroniclers of a national mythology would be replaced by a purpose that more likely resembled that which inspired the tongue-in- cheek recorders of many medieval Irish tales--to amuse and entertain.

Modern folklorists contend that folklore encompasses many types of oral narratives, such as legends and folktales, as well as myths, but I will occasionally distinguish among these forms, prompted by definitions that Mary Helen Thuente established in W. B. Yeats and Folklore. She explains that folklore refers to a broad range of traditions that belonged to the nineteenth- century Irish peasantry, including narratives, songs, beliefs, and customs, while mythology includes narratives, songs, beliefs . . .

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