Democratic experiments: Irish literature between nationalism and modernism

UNCG Author/Contributor (non-UNCG co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Kara Baldwin (Creator)
The University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG )
Web Site:
Ben Clarke

Abstract: The purpose of this research is to examine how literature acts democratically to represent individuals in relation to each other, the nation, and the British Empire. As Ireland’s political system shifted from colony to commonwealth to independent republic, literature helped shape national identity and individual agency. By analyzing literary contributions in Ireland throughout its political transformation, research reveals the progress and limitations that arise in political and literary attempts to write agency. In its study of agency and concepts of representation, this analysis relies on theoretical concepts developed in postcolonial and cultural studies, specifically those developed by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak and Jacque Rancière. Their explanations of representation and the demos are placed into conversation with texts that take part in developing identity and agency in Irish literature, including works of the Celtic Revival, James Joyce’s A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and Flann O’Brien’s At Swim-Two-Birds. Each of these literary texts is examined to identity how they take part in creating – and limiting – democratic agency. While great strides are made in furthering democratic agency by each of these literary texts, this research reveals that individual agency in relation to the nation is complicated. Even so, Flann O’Brien’s novel provides an alternative concept of how democratic agency for individuals can happen in relation to each other and how politics can learn from the dissonance of democratic voices.

Additional Information

Language: English
Date: 2017
Agency, Celtic Revival, Democracy, Flann O'Brien, Irish, Postcolonial
Joyce, James, $d 1882-1941. $t Portrait of the artist as a young man
O'Brien, Flann, $d 1911-1966. $t At Swim-Two-Birds
Politics and literature $z Ireland $x History $y 20th century
Literature and society $z Ireland $x History $y 20th century
Nationalism and literature $z Ireland $x History $y 20th century
Democracy in literature
Politics in literature

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