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A Changing Home: Displaced Trauma, Madness, and the Specter of Nation in New Irish Literature


In this dissertation, I look at how the strains of post-colonial nationhood manifest in the haunted homes and mad families of new Irish literature. This nation is shaped by long years of struggle under a colonial force, and this imbalance of power marks the individuals in these post-independence works. Each symbolic strain indicates a traumatic mark on the national identity itself. However, the manifestation of national trauma is rooted in the various gothic depictions of the home and family. I begin by looking at the supernatural, but my focus is truly on the social structures and traumatic moments that shape the families in each work.

I assert that the traumas of this developing nation manifest in the gothic themes of the modernist inspired literature written in the decades after independence. The personal responses to these traumas appear in the literary depictions of haunting and madness. Here the ghosts signify both shared traumatic events and the personal trauma-related pains that are too socially taboo to express. In contrast, the symbolic presence of madness is a transgressive expression of the individual’s responses to a trauma. Authors use this literary madness to call out the social strains of the long process of reinventing a national identity after colonial occupation.

The time period for the works ranges from publication dates in the 1940s to around 2016. Yet, the individual pieces are set as far back as the start of Irish independence. In effect, this is the Irish looking back on the moments that haunt them as a culture. The traumatic reshaping of a post-colonial national identity comes down to a matter of the family. Each individual in these works deals with the consequences of displacing the individual response to strain for too long, and the family and home are where this haunting realization appears.

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