Gothic inheritance and the Troubles in contemporary Irish fiction
in Haunted historiographies
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A look at Seamus Deane’s Reading in the Dark (1996) and Anna Burns’s No Bones (2002), novels in which child narrators relate their personal accounts of the Northern Troubles using the Gothic’s spectral modes and tropes. The Gothic mode in contemporary, postcolonial Irish writing generally serves to shadow the progress of Irish modernity. These novels expose the underside of postcolonial Irish nationhood: the ongoing struggle for a thirty-two county Republic, and recurring debates about whether Protestantism or Catholicism constitutes the ‘True’ national character. By re-imagining ancestral voices that speak of absolution rather than retribution, Dean and Burns break from popular political and social discourses that draw upon Ireland’s ghosts as a way of justifying recurrent political violence. Both authors employ the familiar trope of the past-haunted present from Celtic folklore, but reverse typical outcomes: haunting is imagined as a productive vehicle for moving the nation out of the past rather than for keeping it there. By focusing on the domestic consequences of the Troubles, specifically trauma experienced by children, both authors imagine a new generation of Irish individuals struggling to re-gain self-possession while remaining dedicated to a more egalitarian vision of Northern Irish society.

Haunted historiographies

The rhetoric of ideology in postcolonial Irish fiction


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