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Irish Modernists: Style and the Moral Compass. “forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated consciousness of my race”. Terry Eagleton Heathcliff and the Great Hunger.

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irish modernists style and the moral compass

Irish Modernists:Style and the Moral Compass

“forge in the smithy of my soul the uncreated consciousness of my race”

terry eagleton heathcliff and the great hunger
Terry Eagleton Heathcliff and the Great Hunger

“modernism, like nationalism, is out to translate those abstract forms into the aesthetic experience of difference, uniqueness, of the ineffably particular and stubbornly specific, of all that escapes the levelling commonness of modernity.”

“Both pit image and intuition against what they see as the reified rationality of the modern world.”


“Here form is content, content is form. You complain that this stuff is not written in English. It is not written at all. It is not to be read — or rather it is not only to be read. It is to be looked at and listened to. His writing is not about something, it is that something itself.”


In a letter to potential publisher Grant Richards, Joyce explained that he intended Dubliners to serve as a moral lesson and history in order to secure “the spiritual liberation of my country” through the stories which operated as a “nicely polished looking glass.”

Joyce described Dublin as “the centre of paralysis” of the nation.

structure in dubliners 1914
Structure in Dubliners 1914

Childhood (“The Sisters,” “An Encounter,” “Araby”)

Adolescence (“Eveline,” “After the Race,” “The Boarding House)

Maturity ( “Two Gallants,” “Counterparts,” “Clay,” “A Painful Case)

Politics/public life in Ireland (“Ivy Day in the Committee Room,” “A Mother,” “Grace”)


Paralysis, loss of innocence, thwarted desire, powerlessness, domestic violence, cruelty, the cash nexus and material struggle, tyranny of tradition.

“My mother was slowly killed, I think, by my father’s ill-treatment , by years of trouble, and by my cynical frankness of conduct. When I looked on her face as she lay in the coffin [...] I understood that I was looking at a victim and I cursed the system which had made her a victim.”

an encounter
“An Encounter”

“The rebuke during the sober hours of school paled much of the glory of the Wild West for me and the confused puffy face of Leo Dillon awakened one of my consciences. But when the restraining influence of school was at a distance I began to hunger again for wild sensations, for the escape which those chronicles of disorder alone seemed to offer me. The mimic warfare of the evening


became at last as wearisome to me as the routine of the school in the morning because I wanted real adventures to happen to myself. But real adventures, I reflected, do not happen to people who remain at home: they must be sought abroad.”


“He described to me how he would whip such a boy as if he were unfolding some elaborate mystery. He would love that, he said, better than anything in this world; and his voice, as he led me monotonously through the mystery, grew almost affectionate and seemed to plead with me that I should understand him.”


“But my body was like a harp and her words and gestures were like fingers running upon the wires.”

“I had hardly any patience with the serious work of life which, now that it stood between me and my desire, seemed to me child’s play, ugly monotonous child’s play.”

“Gazing up into the darkness I saw myself as a creature driven and derided by vanity; and my eyes burned with anguish and anger.”


“Sometimes he could be very nice. Not long before, when she had been laid up for a day, he had read her out a ghost story and made toast for her at the fire. Another day, when their mother was alive, they had all gone for a picnic to the Hill of Howth. She remembered her father putting on her mother’s bonnet to make the children laugh.”

two gallants
“Two Gallants”

“His tongue was tired for he had been talking all the afternoon in a public-house in Dorset Street. Most people considered Lenehan a leech but, in spite of this reputation, his adroitness and eloquence had always prevented his friends from forming any general policy against him. He had a brave manner of coming up to a party of them in a bar and of holding himself nimbly at the


borders of the company until he was included in a round. He was a sporting vagrant armed with a vast stock of stories, limericks and riddles. He was insensitive to all kinds of discourtesy. No one knew how he achieved with the stern task of living, but his name was vaguely associated with racing tissues.”


--I used to spend money on them right enough, he added, in a convincing tone, as if he were conscious of being disbelieved.

But Lenehan could well believe it; he nodded gravely.

--I know that game, he said, and it’s a mug’s game.

--And damn the thing I ever got out of it, said Corley.


“He felt strong enough to clear out the whole office single-handed. His body ached to do something, to rush out and revel in violence. All the indignities of his life enraged him.”

“The barometer of his emotional nature was set for a spell of riot.”


“the sight of five small hot whiskies was very exhilarating. Everyone roared laughing when he showed the way in which Mr Alleyne shook his fist in Farrington’s face. Then he imitated Farrington, saying, And here was my nabs, as cool as you please, while Farrington looked at the company out of his heavy dirty eyes, smiling and at times drawing forth stray drops of liquor from his moustache”

a painful case
“A Painful Case”

“He gnawed the rectitude of his life; he felt that he had been outcast from life’s feast. One human being had seemed to love him and he had denied her life and happiness: he had sentenced her to ignominy, a death of shame. He knew that the prostrate creatures down by the wall were watching him and wished him gone. No one wanted him; he was outcast from life’s feast.”

Last eight sentences all begin with “He.”

ivy day in the committee room
“Ivy Day in the Committee Room”

Charles Stewart Parnell: Land League 1879, Chairman Irish Parliamentary Party 1880, Ladies’ Land League 1880, Home Rule, Irish National League 1882, Divorce petition from Captain O’Shea 1889, 1890 Gladstone & clergy denounce him. Dec. 1890-lime thrown in his eye in Kilkenny.

Died 6 October 1891.


Class, labour, national identity and allegiance, resistance, conflation of idealism and material reality.

--Let bygones be bygones, said Mr. Henchy. I admire the man personally. He’s just an ordinary knockabout like you and me. He’s fond of his glass of grog and he’s a bit of a rake, perhaps, and he’s a good sportsman. Damn it, can’t we Irish play fair?


--He told his hearers that he was there that evening for no terrifying, no extravagant purpose; but as a man of the world speaking to his fellow-men. He came to speak to businessmen and he would speak to them in a businesslike way. If he might use the metaphor, he said, he was their spiritual accountant; and he wished each and every one of his hearers to open his books, the books of his spiritual life, and see if they tallied accurately with conscience.

the dead
“The Dead”

“He stood in the gloom of the hall, trying to catch the air that the voice was singing and gazing up at his wife. There was a grace and mystery in her attitude as if she were a symbol of something. He asked himself what is a woman standing on the stairs in the shadow, listening to music a symbol of.”


“He saw himself as a ludicrous figure, acting as a pennyboy for his aunts, a nervous well-meaning sentimentalist, orating to vulgarians and idealising his own clownish lusts, the pitiable fatuous fellow he had caught a glimpse of in the mirror. Instinctively he turned his back more to the light lest she might see the shame that burned upon his forehead.”


“His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.”

dante and the lobster 1934
“Dante and the Lobster” 1934

“The stump of the loaf went back into prison, the crumbs, as though there were no such thing as a sparrow in the wide world, were swept in a fever away, and the slices snatched up and carried to the grill.”

“He laid his cheek against the soft of the bread, it was spongy and warm, alive. But he would very soon take that plush feel off it, by God but he would very quickly take that fat white look off its face. He lowered the gas a suspicion and plaqued


one flabby side plump down on the glowing fabric.”

“The spots were Cain with his truss of thorns, dispossessed, cursed from the earth, fugitive and vagabond. The moon was that countenance fallen and branded, seared with the first stigma of God’s pity, that an outcast might not die quickly.”


“This was an act of dilapidation, for it seared a great weal in the paper. This was hooliganism pure and simple. What the hell did he care? Was it his wall? The same hopeless paper had been there fifty years. It was livid with age. It could not be disimproved.”

“Buttered toast was all right for Senior Fellows and Salvationists, for such as had nothing but false teeth in their heads. It was no good at all to a fairly strong young rose like Belaqua.


“This meal that he was at such pains to make ready, he would devour it with such a sense of rapture and victory, it would be like smiting the sledded Polacks on the ice. He would snap at it with closed eyes, he would gnash it into a pulp, he would vanquish it utterly with his fangs. Then the anguish of pungency, the pang of the spices, as each mouthful died, scorching his palate, bringing tears.”


“Sometimes his hunger, more of mind, I need scarcely say, than of body, for this meal amounted to such a frenzy that he would have not have hesitated to strike any man rash enough to buttonhole and baulk him, he would have shouldered him out of his path without ceremony. Woe betide the meddler who crossed him when his mind was really set on this meal.”


“He rubbed it. It was sweating. That was something. He stooped and smelt it. A faint fragrance of corruption. What good was that? He didn’t want fragrance, he wasn’t a bloody gourmet, he wanted a good stench. What he wanted was a good green stenching rotten lump of Gorgonzola cheese, alive, and by God he would have it.”

“Belacqua had a spavined gait, his feet were in ruins, he suffered with them almost continuously.”


“Also, his teeth and jaws had been in heaven, splinters of vanquished toast spraying forth at each gnash. It was like eating glass. His mouth burned and ached with the exploit.”

“ ‘You make rapid progress’ she said in her ruined voice. There subsisted as much of the Ottolenghi as might be expected to of the person of a lady of a certain age who had found being young and beautiful and pure more of a bore than anything else.”

“qui vive la pieta quandro e benmorta.”

where are we ever cried the ottolenghi where we were as we were
“ ‘Where are we ever?’ cried the Ottolenghi ‘where we were, as we were.’”

“In the depths of the sea it had crept into the cruel pot. For hours, in the midst of its enemies, it had breathed secretly. It had survived the Frenchwoman’s cat and his witless clutch. Now it was going alive into scalding water. It had to. Take into the air my quiet breath.”

“Well, thought Belacqua, it’s a quick death, God help us all.

It is not.”

waiting for godot 1952 all theatre is waiting
Waiting for Godot 1952“All theatre is waiting”

Gogo: Funny, the more you eat the worse it gets.

Didi: With me it’s just the opposite.

Gogo: In other words?

Didi: I get used to the muck as I go along.

Gogo: (after prolonged reflection). Is that the opposite?

Didi: Question of temperament.

Gogo: Of character.

Didi: Nothing you can do about it.

Gogo: No use struggling.


Didi: One is what one is.

Gogo: No use wriggling.

Didi: The essential doesn’t change.

Gogo: Nothing to be done.


Pozzo: But for him all my thoughts, all my feelings, would have been of common things. (Pause. With extraordinary vehemence.) Professional worries! (Calmer.) Beauty, grace, truth of the first water, I knew they were all beyond me. So I took a knook.”


Gogo: The Scapegoat’s Agony.

Didi: The Hard Stool.

Pozzo: The Net. He thinks he’s entangled in a net.

Lucky’s thought monlogue loosely shaped around a theological sketch punctuated by repetition, uncertainty, fragmented thoughts lacking coherence. “Fartov” and “Belcher.”


Pozzo writhes, groans, beats the ground with his fists.

Gogo: We should ask him for the bone first. Then if he refuses we’ll leave him there.

Didi: You mean leave him at our mercy?

Gogo: Yes.

Didi: And that we should subordinate our good offices to certain conditions?

man and the echo 1938
“Man and the Echo” 1938

“Now that I am old and ill,Turns into a question tillI lie awake night after nightAnd never get the answers right.Did that play of mine send outCertain men the English shot?Did words of mine put too great strainOn that woman's reeling brain?”


“ The spiritual intellect's great work,And shirk it in vain. There is no releaseIn a bodkin or disease,Nor can there be work so greatAs that which cleans man's dirty slate.While man can still his body keepWine or love drug him to sleep,Waking he thanks the Lord that heHas body and its stupidity,