Abstracts for Tuesday December 1st!

Ray Byrne

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French Language and the Language of Shakespeare


The presence in Shakespeare’s plays of lexis and other language features now extinct, or banished to ‘poetic English’, which are patently French, argues for a far longer dominance of Anglo-French in Medieval England, than is generally supposed. However, between the time of Shakespeare and our own, English seems to have been divesting itself of vocabulary and other features most noticeably French, the vestiges of which are found in Early Modern English. This study, aided by many years’ cultural and linguistic experience of the north of France, seeks to highlight and comment on these features as an important aspect of Shakespeare’s language not yet explored in detail.

In many cases, though a word may be still in use, its meaning in Shakespeare is often identical to, or closer to, its meaning in Anglo-French, Old French, Middle French, or Anglo-Norman, than its usage now in English, arguing for a linguistic legacy of the Norman Conquest which was so far-reaching in English society, as to survive into the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. As French developed in a linear way, without the linguistic influence of a major foreign occupation, it is possible to draw a direct line at times, between historical French usage and the language of Shakespeare.

This is part of a wider thesis exploring the legacy of the Norman Conquest on Shakespeare’s plays, and the contrast between Shakespeare’s early orientation towards the Romance cultures of southern Europe, especially France and Italy (where the Normans also conquered territory), rather than towards the geographical and cultural margins of Scotland, Denmark, Cyprus, and ancient Britain, the settings of his greatest tragedies.

Recent historical and linguistic scholarship has been re-evaluating the importance of the Norman Conquest on the cultural development of England.


Conor Linnie



Séan O’Faoláin and Paul Henry: Writer and artist on an Irish journey

at the outbreak of the Second World War.



The outbreak of the Second World War saw the enforcement of overseas restrictions for civilians that placed a new emphasis on cross-border and regional travel in Ireland. For writers and artists, the striking experiential contrasts that attended the commute between the neutral South and wartime North proved an enduring concern, provoking the sustained and fractious deliberation on the themes of isolation and engagement across literature and the visual arts during the period.


In the summer and autumn of 1939, Séan O’Faoláin and Paul Henry embarked upon a journey throughout Ireland, travelling from the provincial southern towns and rural western seaboard to blacked-out industrial Belfast. Their recorded experiences in prose and paint would eventually be published together in the 1940 travelogue An Irish Journey. This paper explores the way in which the themes of isolation and engagement unfold in the book through the dynamic relationship between O’Faoláin’s writing and Henry’s art. The visual coding and writing style of An Irish Journey will, moreover, be examined within the context of the wartime publishing market and tourist trade.



Abstract for Tuesday November 24th

Gerard Hynes

What has speculative fiction to do with environmentalism?


Ecocriticm is one of the fastest growing critical movements in the humanities, having come to encompasses everything from medieval and early modern literature to modernism, postcolonial literature, film and music. Yet popular literature is still relatively unexplored. Several ecocritics (Murphy 2000, Buell 2005), have suggested the relevance of science fiction to environmental concerns but there have been few book-length studies (Baratta 2012, Otto 2012, Canavan and Robinson 2014). Attention has focused on a few favoured authors, principally Margaret Atwood and Kim Stanley Robinson, and, with the exception of J.R.R. Tolkien, fantasy has been almost entirely ignored. SF and fantasy, however, have been and continue to be fundamentally concerned with such ecological questions as what makes a world, the self/Other divide, nonhuman subjectivities, pastoralism, urbanism and the negotiation of trauma and crisis. Speculative fiction is the literature of both possibility and difference, making it ideal for ecological debate and extrapolation. This paper will briefly survey existing SF and fantasy ecocriticism and outline the contribution SF and fantasy may make to the environmental humanities though the test cases of China Miéville and Nnedi Okorafor.


Gerard Hynes studied English and History at Trinity College, receiving a BA in English in 2009. In 2014 he received a PhD from Trinity College for a thesis on ideas of creation in the works of J.R.R. Tolkien. His research and teaching interests focus on the Literature of the Fantastic, whether in contemporary Popular Literature (especially Fantasy and Science Fiction), Children’s Literature or Medieval Literature. He is senior editor of Vexillum: The Undergraduate Journal of Classical and Medieval Studies (www.vexillumjournal.org) and reviews books for Tolkien Studies and Children’s Books Ireland. He has taught modules on J.R.R. Tolkien and Fantasy Literature for the MPhil in Popular Literature and the MPhil in Children’s Literature as well as contributed to the core course of the MPhil in Popular Literature. At undergraduate level he has taught on the courses: Early English Language; Beginnings of English Poetry; Shakespeare: Text, Stage, Screen; and Irish Writing 1890-1945.




Abstracts for Tuesday November 17th!

Aoife Dempsey

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Unearthing the Postcolonial in Bram Stoker’s The Snake’s Pass

This paper considers Bram Stoker’s 1890 novel The Snake’s Pass to be a text indicative of the emerging colonial consciousness in Irish Anglican writing of the nineteenth century. The novel is dominated by episodes of literal and figurative unearthing. The constantly shifting bog on which the story is set is quite literally un-earthed: undermined, and unceremoniously dug up by various characters for scientific experimentation, commercial prospecting, and in digging for legendary gold. Similarly, there is a figurative unearthing of Ireland’s pre-colonial history, an excavation of its pseudo-religious, mythic past, which leads to the eventual exorcism of such atavistic beliefs at the close of the novel. The bog itself is also symbolic of Ireland: a wilderness on the fringes of Empire that refuses fixity and defies ownership or control. ‘The Bog Gothic’, Derek Gladwin writes, ‘illustrates the penchant of Irish artists to both extol and discredit the exotic and sublime dimensions of these marginalised landscapes, depicting bogs as untamed wastelands that resist incorporation into modernity and colonialism.’[1] Moreover, the bog as a profoundly ambivalent space is evocative of the Irish Anglican position during the mid-late nineteenth century, hyphenated between English and Irish identities.

Stoker’s most prominent work, Dracula, has amassed abundant and varied critical attention, one line of investigation arguing that the story exhibits a markedly Irish influence, that it is a parable for absentee landlordism, the Great Famine, the threat of reverse colonialism, and so forth. Stoker’s lesser-known works are shrouded in the shadow of Dracula, meaning that critical material related to these works is few and far between. If we contextualise Stoker and his work as part of a larger movement of Irish, specifically Anglican/Protestant Gothic writing, however, the Irish colonial connection is more explicitly discernible. Through close examination of the colonial consciousness evident in The Snake’s Pass, this paper will suggest that this influence in Stoker’s writing goes beyond any single text, that it threads a thematic link through most (if not all), of his work.

[1] Derek Gladwin, ‘The Bog Gothic: Bram Stoker’s ‘Carpet of Death’ and Ireland’s Horrible Beauty’, Gothic Studies, 16 (2014), p.40. [pp.39-54]

Einat Adar


Beckett and Berkeley: An Encounter

Beckett’s interest in the writings of George Berkeley has become a commonplace in research about Beckett and philosophy. There is plenty of biographical and textual evidence to suggest that Beckett not only read Berkeley with care, but drew inspiration from his philosophical works in his own writing. And yet, very little research has been devoted to what this “interest” might mean for Beckett’s aesthetic practice as a whole beyond examination of specific works where Berkeley is mentioned.

One reason may be that Beckett disparages Berkeley in his letters and writings from the 30’s, tending mostly to reject Berkeley’s ideas. In my paper I would argue that this attitude has dramatically changed after WWII and that Berkeley became an important source of inspiration for the mature Beckett.

An indication of this major shift can be found in Beckett’s Three Dialogues between Samuel Beckett and George Duthuit which is formally modelled on Berkeley’s Three Dialogues between Hylas and Philonous. In this unusual text about the role of the artist Beckett calls for a non-representational art which parallels Berkeley’s rejection of ontological representation in philosophy.

In the paper I will discuss the importance of Berkeley to Beckett’s Three Dialogues and to his theatre and prose works, including The Unnameable, Film  and Rough for Theatre I.

Abstracts for tomorrow’s seminar, Tuesday 3rd November

While recovering from Halloween weekend and the onset of November, let’s meet to chat about McGahern and Banville.

Martin Keaveney


“The Narratological Problem in John McGahern”

The problem in the John McGahern oeuvre as seen through his archives at NUIG is an over-editing issue. Through this paper I will examine specific examples of over editing found in earlier drafts of Chapter 3, The Dark. I select The Dark as it is the book which contains his first published work.  Chapter 3 represents the first section of the work which appeared in X in 1961, and it was the publication of these ‘Episodes from a Novel’ which led to his contract with Faber. I treat this issue through the paradigm of Narratology, which I define as the study of the envelope of narrative from opening to closing of any narrative text, as this seems the best theoretical approach, given that the edits affect the work significantly in a narrative sense. More precisely, I focus on the composition of the material, citing examples as to where John McGahern executed amendments through the drafts and how this reorganised the published version. I consider the use of perspective in the material, integrating critical work in this area. I propose the source of this problem is the conscious or subconscious use of art as therapy. This misguided the writer in his editing strategy and subsequently led to a reduction in mimetic power. I conclude by withdrawing to assess the evolution of John McGahern from the earlier drafts of chapter 3 to the final product as it appeared in The Dark. This process leads to the conclusion that the work was over moulded and that this practice was to unfortunately hamper a writer of unusual talent for the rest of his career.

Doug Battersby 


‘The vivid thing’: Style and Experience in John Banville’s fiction

John Banville’s fiction is recognised by many readers as having a peculiarly philosophical character. The narrators and protagonists of the novels are invariably preoccupied by the nature of themselves and their experiences of the world – a quality reflected in the centrality of such concerns in the published scholarship. Banville is also recognised as an important stylist. However, though critics often acknowledge the significance of style in Banville’s fiction in general terms, the poetical effects of a given moment in a text tend not to play a privileged role in the analyses. This paper argues that an approach which brings the style of Banville’s prose into serious communication with its philosophical concerns can produce a new, and potentially more accurate, understanding of his writing.

The paper begins by considering one of the most heavily discussed passages in the oeuvre, the opening lines of Banville’s early novel Doctor Copernicus (1976), which describe Nicolas Copernicus’s infant experiences of the world. Many critics – including Rudiger Imhof, Joseph McMinn, Ingo Berensmeyer, Elke D’hoker, Derek Hand, and John Kenny – have characterised this apprehension in terms of a ‘purity’ which is later lost with the acquisition of language. By contrast, I show how the style of the passage inextricably interweaves Nicolas’s singular emotions, imaginings, beliefs, and sensory perceptions, evoking an experience which is both irreducibly singular and irreconcilable with the notion of a direct apprehension of the world (irrespective of language). The second section of the paper moves to the much later Ancient Light (2012), partly by way of illustrating that style continues to have serious philosophical implications across Banville’s corpus. I demonstrate how the move from free indirect discourse to the recollective memoir form of the later fiction enables Banville to incorporate questions of style into the narration.