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The Islandman

The Hidden Life of Tomás O’Crohan

Series:

Irene Lucchitti

This book concerns Tomás O’Crohan of the Blasket Islands and offers a radical reinterpretation of this iconic Irish figure and his place in Gaelic literature. It examines the politics of Irish culture that turned O’Crohan into «The Islandman» and harnessed his texts to the national political project, presenting him as an instinctual, natural hero and a naïve, almost unwilling writer, and his texts as artefacts of unselfconscious, unmediated linguistic and ethnographic authenticity. The author demonstrates that such misleading claims, never properly scrutinised before this study, have been to the detriment of the author’s literary reputation and that they have obscured the deeply personal and highly idiosyncratic purpose and nature of his writing.
At the core of the book is a recognition that what O’Crohan wrote was not primarily a history, nor an ethnography, but an autobiography. The book demonstrates that the conventional reading of the texts, which privileges O’Crohan’s fisherman identity, has hidden from view the writer protagonist inscribed in the texts, subordinating his identity as a writer to his identity as a peasant. The author shows O’Crohan to have been a literary pioneer who negotiated the journey from oral tradition into literature as well as a modern, self-aware man of letters engaging deliberately and artistically with questions of mortality.

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and Tomás, 69, 115, 152, 161 autobiography autobiography theory, 16, 187, 193 and coaxing, 22, 119, 190 as a denigrated literary form, 186 and dialogue, 21–2 Gaelic, as sociological documents, 33–4 and impact of editorial activity, 190 in Island oral tradition practice, 69 and material facts, 188 and meaning, 189 meta-autobiography, 200 and mortality, 202 as soliloquy, 184, 188; see also voice truth and truthfulness in, 188–9 see also authenticity and voice Bakhtin, Mikhail dialogism, 18, 19, 157, 162, 176, 185 ideological environment, 17, 53 monologism, 11, 20, 21, 162, 163, 180, 183 polyphony, 20, 21, 162, 163, 165, 166, 173, 180, 181 Barthes, Roland, 148 Bassnett, Susan, 144, 146, 148–9 Bell, H. I., 131, 139, 142 Best, Richard, 48, 49, 141 Bhabha, Homi, 149 Binchy, Daniel, 13, 32–3, 34, 141 Biuso, Thomas, 13, 27, 33, 52 Blasket Island Reflections, 143–4 Blasket Islands (also Great Blasket), Blasket autobiographies, 33, 34 as emblem of nation, 109 influence of Dublin, 61, 111 Acallam na Senórach (Tales of the Elders of Ireland ), 72–3, 74–5, 76, 157, 189 Allagar na hInise see Island Cross-Talk Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities, 97, 111 Aran Islands, 40, 41, 45, 67, 69, 89, 94, 95, 107–8 Aran Islands, The, 122–3 authenticity and An Seabhac, 27 authorial, 198 and autobiography, 21, 69, 105, 187, 188, 189, 190, 191, 193 attributed to Blasket writing, 13, 14–15, 16, 34, 51, 185 challenge to myth of, 124 and coaxing, 119...

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