After Yeats and Joyce: Reading Modern Irish Literature

By Neil Corcoran | Go to book overview

4
Vews of Dublin

An eighteenth century prospect to the sea -- River haze; gulls; spires glitter in the distance Above faint multitudes. Barely audible A murmur of soft, wicked laughter rises. Dublin, the umpteenth city of confusion...

A theatre for the quick articulate, The agonized genteel, their artful watchers... Malice as entertainment. Asinine feast Of sowthistles and brambles! And there dead men, Half hindered by dead men, tear down dead beauty. ( Thomas Kinsella, 'Phoenix Park' ( 1968) 1.


1.Troubles

Talking to his friend Frank Budgen, James Joyce once famously remarked that his aim in Ulysses was to 'give a picture of Dublin so complete that if the city one day suddenly disappeared from the earth it could be reconstructed out of my book'. 2 In many ways the city of Dublin as it was in Joyce's day has in fact disappeared from the earth, victim of heavy urban development and reconstruction since the 1960s; but the encyclopaedic comprehensiveness of Joyce's depiction of it in his novel has acted as both goad and inhibition to many subsequent writers. The shadow of Ulysses falls with varying degrees of heaviness over numerous later literary treatments of the city; and Joyce is, as we shall see, a point of reference in many of these texts.

The Dublin re-created in Joyce is not merely topographical: it is also historical and political. Towards the end of the book's 'Circe' episode, in which its characters and the very narrative and texture of the writing itself undergo nightmarish transfor-

-100-

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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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