Dissolute characters

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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