After Yeats and Joyce: Reading Modern Irish Literature

By Neil Corcoran | Go to book overview

1
Translations

I. Acquired Speech
In the final section of James Joyce "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" ( 1916) Stephen Dedalus walks the streets of Dublin quoting Ben Jonson, considering the 'heaps of dead language' on advertising hoardings, and meditating on the haunting story of sexual invitation and refusal recently told him by his friend Davin, the rural student nationalist and speaker of Irish, for whom Stephen has a tenderness quite exceptional in his relationships with his peers. After emblematizing the pregnant woman of Davin's story as 'a type of her race and his own, a batlike soul waking to the consciousness of itself in darkness and secrecy and loneliness', Stephen has an interview in his university college with the Jesuit dean of studies who is, like many of those who taught in the Royal University of Ireland in its early years, an Englishman. During their conversation Stephen uses the word 'tundish' where the dean would use 'funnel':
-- Is that called a tundish in Ireland? asked the dean. I never heard the word in my life.
-- It is called a tundish in Lower Drumcondra, said Stephen laughing, where they speak the best English.
-- A tundish, said the dean reflectively. That is a most interesting word. I must look that word up. Upon my word I must.

The exchange prompts in Stephen a meditation on the difference between the language he speaks and that spoken by the Englishman which has become a classic text in modern Irish critical writing -- cited perhaps almost too frequently -- for the humiliations endured by a colonized people when they must speak the language of the colonial oppressor:

-1-

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After Yeats and Joyce: Reading Modern Irish Literature
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents *
  • 1 - Translations 1
  • 2 - A Slight Inflection: Representations of the Big House 32
  • 3 - Lyrical Fields and Featherbeds: Representations of the Rural and the Provincial 57
  • 4 - Vews of Dublin 100
  • 5 - Ulsters of the Mind: The Writing of Northern Ireland 131
  • Notes 175
  • Further Reading 183
  • Index 187
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