Date

2015

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

English

First Adviser

Fifer, Elizabeth

Other advisers/committee members

Singh, Amardeep; Moglen, Seth; Elick, Catherine

Abstract

This dissertation takes as its starting point the postcolonial approach that has guided the critical discourse on Irish literature for the last two decades. Rather than simply reiterating the familiar emphasis on nationalist or imperialist sympathies in their texts, I take the position that a number of Irish writers were actively engaged in a thoughtful reconsideration of Irish subjectivity in relation to both national and international or transnational communities. This is not to say that the novels do not contain gestures that resonate with nationalism and imperialism. Instead, I argue that the visions of cosmopolitan possibility in these novels should be taken seriously despite the pattern of deflation or seeming impossibility that characterizes them all. Within the individual chapters, I examine novels by Bram Stoker, James Joyce, Kate O'Brien, and Sebastian Barry, highlighting the ways in which the writers both celebrate the love of nation and the good that Irish nationalism has done and could do, as well as the points at which they become critical of it and look to more inclusive and expansive ways of being. Stoker, moving from The Snake's Pass to Dracula, develops a cosmopolitan generosity to competing ways of understanding the world, initially rooted in Ireland, into an elaborate transnational fantasy that sees social edification in the possibility of cooperation across difference. James Joyce, in Ulysses's "Cyclops" episode, uses surrogate characters to vocalize both the grievances of Ireland under colonial occupation and the risks associated with political nationalist responses to oppression, offering a - qualified - endorsement of cosmopolitanism as an alternative. Kate O'Brien's The Land of Spices sees more rigidly-defined nationalist and cosmopolitan characters cooperating to alleviate the gender oppression endemic to some forms of Irish nationalism, though she maintains a critical distance from nationalism writ large. Finally, Sebastian Barry uses his historical perspective at the end of the twentieth century to give this study it's most fully-realized expression of transnational utopian possibility, as The Whereabouts of Eneas McNulty focuses on a character whose love for his nation is as undeniable as his refusal to abandon his love for the world as a whole. These novels never settle on a primary sense of the Irish subject as either national or cosmopolitan, so the vision in these texts can best be characterized as versions of what Kwame Anthony Appiah calls "partial cosmopolitanism"; they explore the possibility that one might identify strongly both with their national communities as well as with people around the world and, in the process, call into question the internalization of xenophobic and culturally narrow conceptions of Irishness implied in George Russell's influential and prescient formulation, "Nationality or Cosmopolitanism."

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