Nation and self : a study of four modern Irish literary autobiographies
This thesis is an attempt to account for autobiography as a highly prevalent form in twentieth century Irish literature, and argues that the formulation of a national identity for Ireland is both determined by and determining of the establishment of individual identities. The first chapter provides an introduction to the concept of nationalism by considering it as both a political force and as an affective structure within which identity is established. The second chapter then considers a variety of issues necessary to a consideration of autobiography as a literary genre particularly concerned with the formation of identity. The issues considered are the generic status of autobiography, the place within it of memory, the nature of the autobiographical protagonist and the function of autobiography. These comments are intended to bear on the full range of modern Irish literary autobiography, and illustrative examples of various points are based on that range. Taken together these chapters establish a framework for the consideration of the part played by social and collective relationships in the formation of individual identity. These introductory chapters are followed by a series of readings of four literary autobiographies produced after Independence. These are works by Patrick Kavanagh, Frank O'Connor, Sean O'Faolain, and Francis Stuart. These works have been chosen to focus on the problems of identity faced by autobiographers in a period when the issue of national identity had been apparently settled by the establishment of the Irish state. These readings are informed by the theoretical and historical considerations of the first two chapters and take as their principal focus the way in which each autobiographer constructs his Identity. The orientation to the nation is also considered in each case as it relates to the formation of Identity and to the form of the text.