Irish Travellers: An Exploration in Criticism and Fiction
Holmes, Mary Patricia
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This dissertation examines the construction of the Irish Traveller character in fiction. Traveller marginalisation has been perpetuated in literature through stereotypical representation and subjugation of their world-view. This thesis aims to investigate the predominant Irish Traveller stereotypes in art and fiction, and the strategies for innovative representations. This study is tripartite: discursive, creative and reflective. The discursive section provides an overview of Traveller culture and a history of relations between the group and the settled community in order to explore how representations have evolved for better or worse. Representations within photography, film and literature present an overview of the dominant depictions of Travellers in popular culture; these include the victim, the fool and the criminal. Depictions that engage the Traveller perspective or world-view are rare. Using a stylistics approach, three innovative representations, Bryan MacMahon's The Honey Spike, Peter Brady's Paveewhack and Tom Murphy's A Whistle in the Dark are analysed to reveal the choices these respective writers have made A particular focus is placed on the Travellers' specific argot, Shelta, and the oral nature of their community. Section II of this thesis is the creative application of the best of these ideas in a draft of a novel entitled Run Over. The intention is to create a polyphonic chorus of voices, in which the Traveller voice is equal among many. Section III is a reflective essay, which chronicles the interaction of the critical and creative work throughout this Ph.D. The praxis orientation of this work fosters the interaction of critical and creative work, cultivating inquiry, awareness and innovation.
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