Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Andrew Kincaid, Kumkum Sangari, Kristie G. Hamilton, Ruth Schwertfeger
1798, Irish, National Tale, Uprising
The 1798 rebellion radically transformed the social and political landscape of Ireland, but it would also have a dramatic impact on Anglo-Irish authors writing in its grim aftermath. Numerous critics have characterized the early Irish novel as "unstable" and suggest that the interruptions, the inverted, overlapping narratives, and the heteroglossia that pervade these novels are a by-product of these authors' tumultuous times. These Anglo-Irish novels may appear as "unstable" texts, but their "instability," I would argue, is a strategic maneuver, a critique of the idea of "stability" itself as it is presented through the "civilizing," modernizing mission of imperialism. When the fighting ended and the paper war of the rising exploded in its wake, these authors became aware of two parallel but ultimately irreconcilable histories involving the rebellion: the dominant, "official" history as put forth by English and Ascendancy writers and the fractured, fragmented history of their memories. Their works do not just offer up an alternative view of the rising, but critique the very modes of historical representation that attempt to reconstruct it.
I begin in my first chapter by looking closely at three works of non-fiction by written after the rising and show how these authors construct the rising as a Catholic conspiracy and in this way invents an Irish "Other" to the English that represents archaism, lawlessness, corruption, superstition, and backwardness. In chapter two, I argue that Maria Edgeworth complicates this gothic construction in her novel by troubling the discourse of the Catholic subaltern through the character Thady Quirk and Lady Geraldine. In chapter three, I show how Sydney Owenson resists dualistic constructions of Irishness that emerged after the rising and encourages indirect modes of resistance to break down the discourse surrounding Irish masculinity, and in chapter four I argue that Robert Maturin exploits the gothic construction of Irishness in The Milesian Chief, but troubles the emergence of a modern subject through the vampire figure in Melmoth the Wanderer. Ultimately, these writers use 1798 to pull apart boundaries, explode dualistic thinking, and ultimately to question the way we construct cultural identity in the midst of a contested, incomplete, and contradictory history.
Halverson, Colleen Booker, "Fragmented Histories: 1798 and the Irish National Tale" (2012). Theses and Dissertations. 53.