The Formation of Musical Communities in Twentieth Century Irish Literature
This dissertation is situated within the opening field of Irish literary and musical interdisciplinary studies and argues that a scholarly focus on the presence of music within Irish literature and culture opens new readings and perspectives. Drawing on cultural studies and musicology, I focus on the musical moment as a limited space during which identities and relationships are dynamically refigured. Through this approach, I look at the formations of communal and individual identities in and through musical performances, the production of gendered identities through music, and musical constructions of memory and the past. The first two chapters of my study deal specifically with the development of gendered identities through musical performance. Chapter 1 focuses on William Butler Yeats' and Augusta Gregory's variations on the trope of the male wandering musician as reflected in their writings on the Galway singer and poet Anthony Raftery, and the effects of Yeats' interest in Raftery on the evolution of his poetic persona, Red Hanrahan. I argue that Raftery, as introduced to Yeats by Lady Gregory, was pivotal to the evolution of Yeats' self-image as a national poet and helped to define his thoughts on poetry as a performed and musical art. Chapter 2 focuses on opera as a venue for an increased range of personal expression for female characters in Joyce. In it, I argue that the strictly disciplined nature of operatic roles allow Julia Morkan of "The Dead" and Molly Bloom of Ulysses a level of agility with gender identity otherwise unavailable to them. Chapter 3 moves from the gendered individual to communal and national identity as reflected in the musical events at the 1932 Eucharistic Congress in Dublin. In it, I argue that the musical performances throughout this event briefly opened a unique social space in which contradictory versions of Irish identity could coexist. Finally, Chapter 4 moves ahead to the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, focusing on Roddy Doyle's approaches to communal musical experience, the negotiations of identities through music, and constructions of memory through music in The Commitments and The Guts. Here, I consider the issues of cultural connections and appropriations examined by critics of The Commitments and extend these questions to a reading of The Guts. Drawing on Arjun Appadurai's work on the mobility of cultures and the availability of the past as "raw material" for the present, I argue that The Guts shows how a fraudulent "found" recording of a fictional singer can provide a needed ancestor who articulates a needed narrative of defiance and survival for a 2012 audience.