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Breaking the Mould

Literary Representations of Irish Catholicism


Edited By Eamon Maher and Eugene O'Brien

Catholicism has played a central role in Irish society for centuries. It is sometimes perceived in a negative light, being associated with repression, antiquated morality and a warped view of sexuality. However, there are also the positive aspects that Catholicism brought to bear on Irish culture, such as the beauty of its rituals, education and health care, or concern for the poor and the underprivileged. Whatever their experience of Catholicism, writers of a certain generation could not escape its impact on their lives, an impact which is pervasive in the literature they produced.
This study, containing twelve chapters written by a range of distinguished literary experts and emerging scholars, explores in a systematic manner the cross-fertilisation between Catholicism and Irish/Irish-American literature written in English. The figures addressed in the book include James Joyce, Maud Gonne, Constance Markievicz, Kate O’Brien, Edwin O’Connor, Brian Moore, John McGahern, Seamus Heaney, Paul Durcan, Vincent Carroll and Brian Friel. This book will serve to underline the complex relationship between creative writers and the once all-powerful religious Establishment.


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CATHY MCGLYNN ‘In the buginning is the woid’: Creation, Paternity and the Logos in Joyce’s Ulysses 29


Cathy McGlynn ‘In the buginning is the woid’: Creation, Paternity and the Logos in Joyce’s Ulysses My mind rejects the whole present social order and Christianity – home, the rec- ognised virtues, classes of life, and religious doctrines […] Six years ago I left the Catholic Church hating it most fervently. I found it impossible to remain in it on account of the impulses of my nature. I made secret war upon it when I was a student and declined to accept the positions it of fered me […] Now I make war upon it by what I write and say and do.1 Joyce’s rejection of Catholicism is well-documented, as evinced in the above quote, taken from a letter written to Nora Barnacle in August 1904. His fiction accordingly wages a symbolic ‘war’ upon the authority of the Catholic Church in Ireland; as Douglas Fairhill observes: ‘the instrument of Joyce’s rebellion was the written word’.2 This rebellion is not confined to his rejection of the Catholic Church; indeed, as many critics have argued, his fiction persistently resists and challenges those modes of authority that oppress, in Joyce’s view, the Irish race. Vicki Mahaf fey observes Joyce’s ‘life- long, passionate resistance to coercion in any form, which prompted his famous evasions of the authority of church, state and marriage’3 and argues that Joyce developed in his fiction a ‘vast repertory of stylistic techniques in order to attack the traditional, univocal model of authority ref lected in the 1 James Joyce, Letters of James Joyce...

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