Theresa O’Connor, ed., The Comic Tradition in Irish Women Writers (Florida UP 1996), 188pp. [0 8130 1457 3]

CONTENTS, Introduction, [Tradition and Signifying Monkey’ [1]; Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, ‘What Foremothers?’[8]; Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin, ‘’The Voices of Maria Edgeworth’s Comedy’ [21]; Mary Lowe-Evans, ‘Hyacinth and the Wise Man: Lady Gregory’s Comic Enterprise’ [40]; James M.Cahalan, ‘”Humor with a Gender”: Somerville and Ross and the Irish R.M.’ [56]; Rachel Jane Lynch, ‘Molly Keane’s Comedies of Anglo-Irish Manners [73]; Flora Alexander, ‘Irish Murdoch’s Moral Comedy’ [99]; Michael Patrick Gillespie, ‘She was too Scrupulous Always: Edna O’Brien and the Comic Tradition’ [108]; Theresa O’Connor, ‘History, Gender and the Postcolonial Condition: Julia O’Faolain’s Comic Rewriting of Finnegans Wake’ [124]; Mary O’Connor, ‘Lashings of Mother Tongue: Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s Anarchic Laughter’ [149]; Jean-Louis Gionvannangeli, ‘Joyce and Boylan’s Black Baby: “Swiftly and Silently”’ [171]. Contributors, 183, Index. 185.

in Theresa O’Connor, ed., The Comic Tradition in Irish Women Writers (Florida UP 1996)

Acknowledgements express gratitude to Vivian Mercier and Eilís Dillon whose conversation I 1988 started the project; also her Kerry neighbours who have given her the gift of comic faith, which is inside her forever

Epigraph: ‘Tradition is the practice of ceaselessly excavating, safeguarding, violating, discarding and reinscribing the past […] history is not a fair copy, but a palimpsest, whose deleted layers must be thrust to light.’ (Eagleton; no source.)

Cites Yoruba tale to illustrate double-voiced nature of Signifyin(g) utterance … a metaphor for textual revision. [2]; claims that Ireland has early links with Africe as attested to in Georgraph of Ptolemy, in the course of asserting that the dual-gendered trickster in irish tradition bears a resemblance to Esu-Elegbara of the Yoruba story.

Mercier’s ground breaking work claimed the comic as the central tradition in irish literature […]tended to exclude or ignore women’s literary expression. [2]

At the heart of machniomhartha Finn […]is a quest for a language of the essentially other in the Otherworld of women. [3]

Homi K. Bhabha: ‘ it is by living in the borderlines of history and language, on the limits of race and gender, that we are in a position to translate the differences between them into a kind of solidarity.’ (‘DisseminNation’, in Nation and Narration, ed. Bhabha, London: Routledge 1992.)

Notes that James MacKillop paraphrases the main thrust of David Krause (in The Profane Book of Irish Comedy, 1982) as arguing that ‘the ossianic dialgoues form a vast literature , much largely lost, which celebrates the joys of the pagan world of nature and berates the repression of foreign Christianity. He sees Oisín as the first subversive against the strictures of Holy Ireland, the ancestor of a figure who runs through Irish culture and literature down to modern times.’ (James MacKillop, Fionn mac Cumhaill: Celtic Myth in English Literature, Syracuse UP 1986).

[James] Cahalan aims to show that far from being racist victimisers, Somerville and Ross were victimised women who nonetheless managed to become successful, and that intermixed in the RM stories with a nostalgia for a dying way of life was a subversively gendered portrait of strong, vital women.’ (Cahalan; p.60)

M. P. Gillespie: ‘O’Brien draws inspiration from the model of Joyce’s fiction, and she plays upon ouor expectations created by memories of his to infuse more humor into her work by subtle contrasts with Joyce’s. To say that she draws upon the Irish comic tradition to feminise Joycean themes would in and of itself trivialise the work of both writers. On the other hand, t use that idea as a point of departure … acknowledges the interpretative multiplicity inherent in their respective stories. [122]

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