The ironic conscience : a study of the first extended phase of Derek Mahon's poetry - from Night-Crossing (1968) to Antarctica (1985)
Citation:Brian Dooney, 'The ironic conscience : a study of the first extended phase of Derek Mahon's poetry - from Night-Crossing (1968) to Antarctica (1985)', [thesis], Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland). School of English, 2009, pp 275
Dooney TCD THESIS 8754 The ironic.pdf (PDF) 207.9Mb
This thesis reappraises the first extended phase of Mahon’s early poetry, from Night- Crossing (1968) to Antarctica (1985), in the light of the concept of the ironic conscience. It begins by outlining an initial definition of this concept as a subtle and elusive mindset, whose strong moral vision is marked by the interaction of different modes (playful, satirical, allusive, dialectical, sceptical, visionary). It argues that all of these modes are at the service of a critical intelligence which is profoundly engaged with historical and political realities. The opening chapter addresses the key critical contexts necessary in order to appreciate the significance of this concept for reading Mahon’s early poetry. These include the outbreak of violence in the North of Ireland in 1969 and changes in the institution of literature which brought about a radical reassessment of the relationship between literature, history and politics. This critical reorientation greatly influenced the reception of the poet’s work. At times, the politically charged polemic resulted in crude interpretations which failed to grasp the many and subtle ways in which it addressed historical and political realities. Contrary to criticism of Mahon’s early poetry as detached, the chapter argues that the ironic conscience was obliquely engaged with history, undermining stark oppositions between poetic freedom and poetic responsibility. This argument underlies subsequent chapters, which clarify its evolution and shifting modes of expression.
Author: Dooney, Brian
Advisor:Brown, Terence P.
Publisher:Trinity College (Dublin, Ireland). School of English
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Type of material:thesis
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