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

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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.

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