Publication Date



Irish fiction; First World War; Anglo-Irish Ascendancy; trauma; narrativity; specters

Document Type



Celtic Studies | English Language and Literature | Folklore | History | History of Art, Architecture, and Archaeology | Linguistics | Theatre History


In Elizabeth Bowen’s A World of Love and J. G. Farrell’s Troubles, the First World War’s dead reappear as specters within the Anglo-Irish estate. Through the lens of traumatology, this essay examines the symbolic function of this spectral return in light of its psychological, political, and cultural-historical implications for the Anglo-Irish Ascendancy, and more broadly, for contemporary Ireland. This essay argues that although A World of Love and Troubles are empathetic representations of how the Ascendancy experienced the First World War as an historical locus of trauma, their narrative designs figure spectral return as a symbolic mode of critique aimed at this class’s occlusive processing of traumatic loss: in processing the war as the loss of its own raison d’etre – of both its men and of its centuries-long dominance – the Ascendancy would remain inward- and backward-looking, unreceptive to the sense of trauma or personal suffering the war also caused for others. Spectral return signifies the Ascendancy’s tendency to remain entrenched in its own traumatic past.