The writings of James Clarence Mangan : a case study in Nationalism and writing
The life of James Clarence Mangan (1803-49) coincided with an era crucial in Irish history, not only through its events, but more specifically through the acceleration of a drive to define an identity for Ireland and the Irish people. The first chapters of the thesis test the various biographies of Mangan against the few establishable facts, indicating the mythopoeic elements that constitute the mass of these accounts. Mangan's autobiography is analysed in part through a Freudian reading, in conjunction with a discussion of the masking effects of Mangan's exploitation of genre, types and allusions. The problems confronted in trying to establish a biography of Mangan are shown to be raised by deliberate strategies in the writing which seek to refuse the assumption of an identity as individual or writer. Chapter III examines the history of unionist and nationalistattempts to constitute an identity for Ireland. Through constitutional history, and later through the very process of historical research and education, both parties develop ideologies of the coherence of nation and subject which are based in a "science of origins". Their respective models, both derived from Romantic formulations, share a similar structure and intent. In both models literature takes a central place as a unifying institution, and ballad forms and translations from Gaelic poetry areseen as the foundation from which a national literature will be constructed. Chapters IV, V and VI thus attend first to the ambivalent nature of Mangan's nationalist ballads, and subsequently compare a selection of his Gaelic translations with those of his contemporary Ferguson. Through a discussion of his Oriental and German "oversettings" in relation to theirImodels and sources, it is argued that those ambivalence, belong with aset of strategies, developed largely under the rubric of translation, through which Mangan responds critically to the demand for "identification" and "originality". 'These strategies are then considered in terms of their effects on his original writings. The critical relation of translation to source text here emerges as a radical suspicion of representation, which is compared and contrasted with the models offered by other Romantic writers on which Mangan in varying degrees depends, and from which, in crucial ways, he diverges. In conclusion, this relation of dependence-and divergence is shownto characterize Mangan's writing, producing a state of impasse in which, however acute and intense his criticisms, what is criticized cannot be transcended. The outcome, whether in the spiritual, psychological or cultural domain, is a suspension rather than a refusal of identification. If the procedures described are nevertheless significant in eluding appropriation by either unionist or nationalist, their further potential emerges in Joyce's reading of Mangan in his 1902 lecture. His appreciation of the possibilities and limiting factors in the writing is developed as a foil for the procedures of A Portrait and Ulysses.