Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

Music, Symbol and Negativity in Eilis Ni Dhuibhne's "The Pale Gold of Alaska"

Academic journal article Estudios Irlandeses - Journal of Irish Studies

Music, Symbol and Negativity in Eilis Ni Dhuibhne's "The Pale Gold of Alaska"

Article excerpt

Abstract. This article attempts to reveal a transitory point in the course of which the protagonist of Eilis Ni Dhuibhne's "The Pale Gold of Alaska" endeavours to question polar truths that position her in the 'Irish female' scheme, thus causing her transformation into the enigma--a symbol that escapes the necessity of verbalising one's Self. To do so, I dwelled heavily on musical parallels which proved helpful in the analysis of the mentioned negation of verbal identity. The use of musical symbolism, though, does not evolve solely from an analytical interest, since, as I see it, musical patterns and symbols are deeply rooted in literary works and help us understand literature in ways not yet explored. Though musicology bears a strong resemblance to philosophical and literary movements, the ideas of philosophers like Kristeva, who is very fond of musical metaphors while describing her semiotics, never formed a separate area of literary criticism. Still, her idea of using a non-verbal signifying system to explain linguistic and even psychological patterns is inspiring enough to carry out similar practice in relation to literature.

Key Words. Psychoanalysis, semiotics, musicology, identity, negativity, enigma.

Resumen. El articulo pretende revelar un punto transitorio en el transcurso del cual la protagonista de "The Pale Gold of Alaska" de Eilis Ni Dhuibhne intenta cuestionar las verdades contrapuestas que la situan en el esquema de 'mujer irlandesa', transformandola en el enigma -un simbolo que obvia la necesidad de verbalizar el propio ser. Para tal proposito, he recurrido frecuentemente a paralelismos musicales que me han resultados eficaces para el analisis de la mencionada negacion de identidad verbal. El uso de simbolismo musical no proviene unicamente de un interes analitico, puesto que, a mi parecer, las estructuras y simbolos musicales estan fuertemente enraizados en obras literarias, y nos ayudan a entender la literatura de forma inusitada. Si bien la musicologia se asemeja mucho a los movimientos filosoficos y literarios, las ideas de un filosofo como Kristeva, que recurre a menudo a las metaforas musicales al describir su semiotica, nunca constituyo un area separada de la critica literaria. No obstante, su uso de un sistema de significacion no verbal para dar cuenta de modelos linguisticos e incluso psicologicos abre el camino a practicas similares en relacion a la literatura. Palabras Clave. Psicoanalisis, semiotica, musicologia, identidad, negatividad, enigma.


And the instrument of Darkness, whom they have designated, will not be set down a word from then on except to deny that she must have been the enigma. S. Mallarme (1)

The process of growing into adolescence is the key to understanding Eilis Ni Dhuibhne's writing. Yet, in "The Pale Gold of Alaska" this process is not linked with the effects of physical ageing as such, but with Irish heroine's mental change achieved through her adaptation of the American lifestyle and perception. However, despite the highly assimilatory character of mainstream American culture, Sophie, the story's protagonist, succeeds in finding herself a niche in a new cultural context. Due to the flexibility and openness of her ontological melody, Sophie manages to break down overtly disparate Irish-American identities into one semiotic 'melody of self', a melody which resounds in the musical body--the female Diapason. It is the process of negativity that accompanies musical fusion and propels a continuous movement between polar opposites, thus enabling Ni Dhuibhne's woman to go beyond both Irish and American instruments of categorisation. The perpetual movement between the semiotic and the symbolic triggers the fusion of categories and transforms the Irish female in Ni Dhuibhne's writing into a musical enigma that questions positioning of any kind. Therefore, the purpose of this analysis is to explore musical patterns that dwell in the female psyche of Ni Dhuibhne's characters; the patterns of negativity that allow the female protagonist to escape being labelled by national archetypes and metamorphose her into the enigma--a mouldable semi-identity that exists somewhere in-between-the-binaries. …

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