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Irish Studies and the Dynamics of Memory

Transitions and Transformations

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Edited By Marguerite Corporaal, Christopher Cusack and Ruud van den Beuken

Irish Studies and the Dynamics of Memory presents the latest research from Irish studies scholars across a variety of disciplines, including history, literature, theatre, photography and folklore, and generates new and challenging insights into the dynamics of cultural remembrance in Irish society. Featuring contributions by leading researchers in the field such as Guy Beiner, Graham Dawson and Emilie Pine, this collection demonstrates how the examination of Irish cultural legacies can illuminate our understanding of processes of identity formation, heritage policies, canonization, musealization and the transgenerational and transcultural inflections of the past. Investigating topics such as trauma, contested politics and commemorative practices, and exploring recent theoretical developments, the volume offers an interdisciplinary overview of the recent cross-fertilization between memory studies and Irish studies.
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5 Autobiography or Fiction?: Unravelling the Use of Memory in Francis Stuart and John McGahern (Eamon Maher)

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EAMON MAHER

5 Autobiography or Fiction?: Unravelling the Use of Memory in Francis Stuart and John McGahern

Cultural memory has come to the fore in a number of disciplines in recent decades, as researchers seek to read, in the words of Niamh Moore and Yvonne Whelan, ‘the signs, symbols and sites of heritage that comprise the landscapes in which we live’. The book of essays which Moore and Whelan edited in 2007 set out to map ‘the overlapping and oftentimes complex relationships between identity, memory, heritage and the cultural landscape’.1In a similar manner, poets, novelists and playwrights have invested much care in rendering a sense of place and time that will have the ring of authenticity – Joyce, Synge, Kavanagh, Kate O’Brien and Heaney spring to mind immediately in this context. However, a difficulty often arises for the writer; namely, how to recreate and share sensations that occurred in the past and which, when relived as memories, take on an altered hue. In order to be successful in this task, writers must be mindful of the danger of giving past experiences the inflection of contemporaneous perception – which is unavoidable to a certain degree, but which requires attention if one wishes to avoid an artificial rupture between past and present.

Few Irish writers have leaned on personal experience as a source of raw material for their fiction to the same extent as Francis Stuart (1902–2000) and John McGahern (1934–2006). Writing about...

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