A kind of mime: Cultural politics and narrative experiment in the works of Samuel Beckett, Máirtín Ó Cadhain, and Brian Ó Nualláin
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This thesis is a trilingual comparative literary study, analysing the works of Samuel Beckett (1906-1989), Máirtín Ó Cadhain (1906-1970), and Brian Ó Nualláin (1911-1966). This study will argue that the very particular form of literary modernism exhibited by these writers, one which appears in a transitionary state between late modernism and early postmodernism, is fundamentally shaped by the intersecting cultural forces of postcolonial Ireland. In line with the New Modernist Studies, the thesis aims to shed greater light on the particularities and peculiarities of Irish modernist literary production; of what specific forms it assumed in post-revolution Ireland; and how these forms differed across both majority and minoritized languages. Though it is now axiomatic in Irish Studies that the decline of the Irish language had profound consequences for Irish literary modernism at the turn of the twentieth century, the number of critical studies which engage with Irish literary space’s multilingual nature are few. If modernism is marked by a certain scepticism surrounding the signifier, the crisis of language which defines both modernist and postmodernist discourse is accentuated in the case of the uneasy bilingualism which marks Irish culture more generally. The thesis will ultimately suggest that a focus on the multilingual nature of Irish literary space, along with the contextualising of Irish modernist literature during the postcolonial moment, not only provides a greater understanding of Irish literary modernism but also helps critics in sketching the blurred borders between modernist and postmodernist aesthetics.