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Title: The fiction and fictionalising of William Carleton
Author: Turton, Jackie
ISNI:       0000 0001 3540 0117
Awarding Body: University of Liverpool
Current Institution: University of Liverpool
Date of Award: 2007
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William Carleton, widely acknowledged to be the most important Irish writer of the nineteenth century, has, nevertheless, been subject to little rigorous examination. This neglect stems, firstly, from the notoriety he gained early in his career. An Ulster peasant by birth, and a convert to Protestantism in early adulthood, he commenced his career as a writer by attacking the Catholic Church into which he had been baptised. Consequently, despite his later skilful and sympathetic depictions of the Catholic peasant classes he knew so well, Irish attitudes towards him long remained ambivalent, and neither his work, nor his life, received the critical attention they deserved. Secondly, the fact that there is relatively little authoritative information on Carleton has further discouraged any proper investigation of what evidence is available, a fact which has reinforced a tendency for erroneous suppositions about Carleton to remain, not only uncorrected, but repeatedly cited as fact. This thesis, the aim of which is to present a corrective analysis of the author and his writings, is the first study to properly redress that failure. It pursues those lines of inquiry which, in the judgement of the writer, are most productive for the purpose of explicating the complexities of Carleton's work and character. The fundamental issues with which this thesis engages are ones of identity and identification; those imposed upon Carleton and those he sought for himself. The opening chapter gives a critical overview of the way in which scholars have presented Carleton, from the nineteenth century until the present day. A dearth of primary source material has made him an easy subject for appropriation; once vilified as an apostate, his more recent fate has been to be defined by the Famine. The second chapter examines how Carleton's personal identity was connected to the matter of his religious affiliation. The misinterpretation of circumstances connected to Carleton's shift of religious identity - an error corrected in this chapter of the study - provides the most obvious example of widespread critical neglect which he has suffered. Chapter three assesses the way in which Carleton's changing religious attitudes are reflected in his fictional writing. The final three chapters together constitute an examination of Carleton's literary identity. Chapter four proposes that Carleton can be understood as standing in the tradition of the senachie, as one who found his voice, and gained his reputation, by identifying with the peasant classes with which he was familiar. The penultimate chapter addresses Carleton's self-image as a young man, and the way in which both his empathy and identification with particular human types is expressed through his fiction. The final chapter examines Carleton's decline, as, confronted by the limits of his own imaginative capabilities, he wrestled with a form to which his talents were ill-adapted, and with subjects with which he could not properly identify.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available