Witnessing the past
The textual ruins of The Milesian chief
in Charles Robert Maturin and the haunting of Irish Romantic fiction
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Evidencing the literary hybridity of The Milesian Chief, Charles Robert Maturin's novel begins with a traditional national tale plot but graphically transforms and skews its conventions. The Milesian Chief has been described very rightly as 'a ruin text'; a text about the ruins and ruin of a nation. The Milesian Chief is a ruin itself, a physical reminder of the devastation of Irish history, forever haunted by the ghosts of the past, the (fictional) bodies sacrificed to history heaving within its pages. Confirming its status as a ruin text, Maturin's text echoes with the ghostly voices of the Gothic novel, the national tale, and the historical novel. It emerges as a hybrid text that accurately reflects the social, cultural, and political fragmentation of the author's contemporary Ireland. Irish reality, Maturin declares, is haunted by the past, preventing any kind of meaningful mediation between conflicting temporal or, indeed, geographical zones.

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