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Irish literary history through Balzac, Sheridan Le Farm, Yeats and Bowen

It is a central thesis that nineteenth-century Ireland went through a series of traumatic processes of modernization, which have been denied and repressed in their aftermath. The mediated presence of Sheridan Le Fanu and Honore de Balzac in the work of W.B. Yeats brings to a head political questions of the utmost gravity, the most notable being Yeats's engagement with fascism. Le Fanu has been persistently aligned with a so-called Irish gothic tradition. The objective in this book is to observe the historical forces inscribed in Le Fanu's distinctive non-affiliation to this doubtful tradition. The book presents a French response to Charles Maturin's gothic work, Melmoth the Wanderer, which is followed by discussion of a triangular pattern linking Balzac, Le Fanu and Yeats. This is followed by an attempt to pay concentrate attention within the texts of Le Fanu's novels and tales, with only a due regard for the historical setting of Le Fanu's The House by the Churchyard. An admirer of Le Fanu's fiction, Elizabeth Bowen adopted some of the stock-in-trade of the ghost story to investigate altered experiences of reality under the blitz. A detailed examination of her The Heat of the Day serves to reopen questions of fixity of character, national identity and historical reflexivity. In this work, the empty seat maintained for the long dead Guy might be decoded as a suitably feeble attempt to repatriate Le Fanu's Guy Deverell from an English to an Irish 1950s setting.

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The House by the Church yard

remote de Cresserons. And whereas de Cresserons came straight like the sword into Ireland, the early-eighteenth-century Le Fanus had travelled more circumspectly and demurely. At one, subliminal level of allegory, the opening pages of The House by the Church-yard are a dies irae, day of wrath, or even Day of Judgement for the Irish eighteenth century. Graves have been opened and

in Dissolute characters

The House by the Church-yard had included less concentrated inquiries of a kind similar to those conducted in the stories of 1861-2. Whether for financial reasons alone or otherwise, Le Fanu was obliged to abandon Irish historical settings in all his subsequent full-length novels. The last instalment of the Chapelizod saga appeared in the

in Dissolute characters

English dramatists – Marlowe, Marston, Sedley, Shirley, Wycherley – and of other more generally literary’ figures (Berkeley, for example). Those fictional names both proliferate between texts in atomising sub-elements and persist from some previous and external source. Those of The House by the Church-yard are reasonably familiar to readers of Irish

in Dissolute characters

renegotiation of privacy was required. By using Charles de Cresseron(s) are a signature for the serial version The House by the Church-yard Le Fanu pointed to the historical basis for this shifting demarcation line between public and private, while the incorporation of the name into Wylder’s Hand as the narrator’s name marks a further stage in the interiorisation of the

in Dissolute characters

imminent celebration precisely to the revolutionary events of 1848. Alarmed by his earlier association with some of the Irish rebels, Le Fanu commences a process of revaluation which becomes systematic in The House by the Church-yard, a revaluation as yet lacking a term to mark and mask an endangered middle-class fraction. The emergence of Protestant Ascendancy in this

in Dissolute characters
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seemingly isolated from the other readable novels of the 1860s. (Few will have noticed that the name of Mr Audley, Mary Ashwoode’s elderly attendant in her flight to safety in Ardgillagh, will be abbreviated and extended in The House by the Church-yard when Lord Dunoran’s son introduces himself as A. Mervyn.) But Le Fanu did not wait until 1861 to resume adjustments of his

in Dissolute characters

stages which follow, dealt with in Chapters 4 to 10, may give the appearance of concentrating their attention within the texts of Le Fanu’s novels and tales, with only a due regard for the historical setting of The House by the Church-yard (1861). The next three chapters (11 to 13) should make it clear that the earlier concentration on textual minutiae can bear fruit in terms of a

in Dissolute characters
Two tales of 1861–2

generation will call entropy can be detected everywhere in Le Fanu’s fiction. Nevertheless, his resumed activity as a novelist at the beginning of the 1860s did seem to manifest real energy and real commitment. While The House by the Church-yard was appearing as a serial in The Dublin University Magazine, he published two short stories in the same columns; set in County

in Dissolute characters

Torlogh O’Brien: A Tale of the Wars of King James (1847) and the later The House by the Church-Yard (1863), works which explore seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Irish history. For critics such as W. J. McCormack, this period defines the limit of Le Fanu’s historical interest in Ireland’s past: ‘One further feature of this oft-remarked Irish gothic tradition which distinguishes it from the

in Open Graves, Open Minds