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The rhetoric of ideology in postcolonial Irish fiction
Author: Matthew Schultz

The rhetoric of ideology haunts Irish fiction. In this book, I map these rhetorical hauntings across a wide range of postcolonial Irish novels, and define the specter as a non-present presence that simultaneously symbolizes and analyzes an overlapping of Irish myth and Irish history. By exploring this exchange between literary discourse and historical events, Haunted Historiographies provides literary historians and cultural critics a theory of the specter that exposes the various complex ways in which novelists remember, represent, and reinvent historical narrative. Haunted Historiographies juxtaposes canonical and non-canonical novels that complicate long-held assumptions about four definitive events in modern Irish history—the Great Famine, the Irish Revolution, the Second World War, and the Northern Irish Troubles—to demonstrate how historiographical Irish fiction from James Joyce and Samuel Beckett to Roddy Doyle and Sebastian Barry is both a product of Ireland’s colonial history, and also the rhetorical means by which a post-colonial culture has emerged.

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Textual spectrality and Finnegans Wake
Matthew Schultz

A reconsideration of James Joyce’s Finnegans Wake (1939) that forecasts Jacques Derrida’s notion of spectrality as a viable theoretical lens for the Twenty-First Century, even as the spectral figure aids our reinterpretation of Joyce’s text. For Joyce’s corpus, central to Irish literary tradition, celebrates this impurity and offers us insight into contemporary postcolonial novelists’ motivations for and methods of reinvention.

in Haunted historiographies
Matthew Schultz

Demonstrates the ways in which two thematically and structurally similar novels, Nuala O’Faolain’s My Dream of You (2001) and Joseph O’Connor’s Star of the Sea (2002), complicate popular uses of the Famine narrative in arguments on both sides of the debate over Irish independence. By calling forth ghosts from the Nineteenth Century to expose both intentional and unintentional misrepresentations of the Famine (imagery, ideological meaning, and political mandate), O’Faolain and O’Connor redefine modern Ireland in terms of hunger and dispossession, revealing a more complex national narrative and a more cosmopolitan national identity.

in Haunted historiographies
Matthew Schultz

Emphasizes a spectral blending of Famine and World War II imagery in Sebastian Barry’s novel The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty (1998), which argues against Irish neutrality. I define and measure the effect of spectrality in Barry’s fiction by focusing on the ghostly (tropes, modes, themes, and forms that bring multiple histories and fictions into dialogue with one another) to trace the way in which Barry crafts a Famine subtext that functions as a critique of Ireland’s non-engagement. Eneas Mcnulty employs imagery that conjures the history of the Famine into the historical space of World War II, and can therefore be read as invoking that nineteenth-century Irish trauma as rationale not for neutrality, but engagement.

in Haunted historiographies
Easter 1916 and the advent of post-Catholic Ireland
Matthew Schultz

Analysis of two novels that seek to re-establish ‘forgotten’ elements of Irish history: Roddy Doyle’s A Star Called Henry (1999) and Jamie O’Neill’s At Swim, Two Boys (2001). Both novels excavate feminist and queer narratives that have been hidden behind the façade of Ireland’s conservative national narrative by establishing the prominence of such narratives during the 1916 Easter Rising. Reading both novels through the lens of spectrality—a narrative mode that conflates temporalities, events, and peoples—and in the context of Ireland’s waning conservatism at the end of the Twentieth Century offers a clearer notion of how both texts reconsider the founding mythology of Irish culture. At Swim, Two Boys places gay lovers and ideals of homosexuality at the absolute core of the Easter Rising, thereby implying the revolutionary notion that the Irish Republic was in fact founded upon the principles of queer politics. A Star Called henry, while certainly invested in acknowledging class divisions in early twentieth-century Dublin, also seeks to recover feminism as a logical extension, or corollary, to nationalism.

in Haunted historiographies
Matthew Schultz

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.

in Haunted historiographies
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Famine and the Western Front in Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot
Matthew Schultz

A case study that underscores the dual political and artistic identity of Postcolonial Irish authors in action in order to delineate where Irish studies scholars stand with spectrality as a critical lens for analyzing the present and coming fiction about twenty-first-century Ireland. Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godot (1949, trans. 1953) fluently theorizes this dual aesthetic and political identity, thereby bridging the high modernism of James Joyce and the postcolonial spectrality of Haunted Historiographies’ Post-Celtic Tiger authors.

in Haunted historiographies