Terry Eagleton, ‘Form and Ideology in the Anglo-Irish Novel’ (1996) , also pub. as ‘Form and Ideology in the Anglo-Irish Novel’, in Mary Massoud, ed., Literary Relations: Ireland, Egypt and the Far East (Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe 1996), pp.135-46.

‘That a major literary realism never flourished in Ireland is in one sense unsurprising. For culture demands a material base; and there was little of that in one of Europe’s poorest countries’ (p.135)

‘It is as though Carleton, like Griffin and the Banims before him, is unable to organise his plot in accordance with some deep historical logic, as Georg Lukacs would claim for the great European realists from Stendhal to Tolstoy. The Irish novel from Sterne to O’Brien is typically recursive and diffuse, launching one random narrative only to abort it, for some equally gratuitous tale, ringing pedantically ingenious variations on the same meagre clutch of plot elements. Anglo-Irish literature begins with one of the world’s greatest anti-novels, and achieves its apotheosis in a couple of others. … If realism is the home of stability, it is equally the locus of totality. (p.136)

‘Another check to Irish realism, paradoxically enough, is a certain excess of reality. The stark exigencies of history often enough disrupt the artifice of literary realism, as passionate polemic or outraged commentary burst through the protocols of the imagination, refusing to be naturalised in the classical realist mould.’ (p.137)

‘There is a species of Irish fiction - the wildly popular Knocknagow comes to mind - which strives to sanitise reality for the ends of edification , since to depict the people in their true degraded state might only confirm their oppressors’ stereotypes of them […] Writing is torn between an abrasive realism which in indicting the colonial[,] risks demeaning the people, and one which in fostering the national self-esteem gives false comfort to their rulers.’ (p.137)

[…] ‘Protestant Gothic, one might claim, is the political unconscious of Irish society, the place where its fears and fantasies most luridly emerge. Ireland is violent, criminal, priest-ridden, autocratic full of mouldering ruins and religious fanaticism, and thus a society ripe for Gothic treatment. And if the form is on the whole of Protestant origin, it is because nothing lends itself better to the genre than the decaying gentry in their crumbling mansions isolated and sinisterly eccentric, haunted by the sins and spectres of the past, awash with ghosts and revenants of various kinds. For Gothic is the nightmare of the besieged and reviled - most notably of women, but in this case of an ethnic minority marooned within a largely hostile people. Sheridan Le Fanu portrays Daniel O’Connell as a Gothic monstrosity, a kind of Dracula of Derrynane; and James Clarence Mangan, with his blanched face and eccentric dress, was a type of the Undead, a kind of walking Gothic fantasy all in himself. It is not hard to read Melmoth in Charles Maturin’s magnificent novel as a type of the Anglo-Irish gentry, haunted by a primordial crime perpetrated in the seventeenth century which refuses to lie quite in its grave but which stalks the centuries in search of expiation. The Faustian pacts Melmoth seeks to establish with the dispossessed are all about Irish class politics - about the ghastly bonds of hatred and affection between exploiter and exploited. In a bizarre paradox, the oppressor has put himself morally beyond the pale, and so has a kind of grotesque affinity to those he persecutes.

Gothic, that most extravagant of literary forms, is also secretly one of the most materialist. If it is full of hapless victims left to rot in remote asylums, you can be sure that this is because somebody is trying to get his hands on their money. The Irish name for this materialist Gothic is Sheridan Le Fanu, where money is usually to be found lying at the root of metaphysics, as in the disputed will or murderous struggle over inheritance. For Gothic is the form in which the dead take command of the living, a fiction of transmitted curses and aboriginal trespasses, all of which can be decoded as the deadweight of inherited property moulding the present of an Ascendancy now entering its dotage. The power of [140] capital, which sucks blood from the living, is the most vampiric phenomenon of all. Le Fanu is thus fascinated by states which are ambivalently dead and alive, where real and unreal undecidably mingle, as the world of the Ascendancy itself is always part fantasy and part reality, and his work lays bare the guilt and paranoia of a social class on the wane, not least in that cockpit of feuds and loathings known to polite company as the family. There is indeed an unspeakable horror at the heart of things, but it turns out to have the drearily familiar names of fraud, coercion, exploitation. (P.140-41).

The novel form, as Bakhtin instructs us, may be dialogic to its roots; but in Ireland this is so in a rather more precise sense. For what we are listening to when we read Agnlo-Irish fiction is one side of a fraught conversation with the British reading public, the other side of which we have to infer or reconstruct from the works on the page. Irish fiction, like Irish political rhetoric, is always discourse craftily or dipolomAtically operhearing itself in the ears of its interlocutors, always at some level a covert act of propaganda or special pleading for metropolitan consumption. (p.141).

ON Bram Stoker:

‘One might add in parentheses here that there is no more palpable Gothic allegory of the decline of the Anglo-Irish gentry than Bram Stoker’s own celebrated novel, written at the time of the Land Acts which stripped the landlords of their power. Like them, Dracula is literally running out of land; by the end of the novel he is being hotly pursued around Europe, furnished only with the crates of Transylvanian soil he needs to bed down in for the night. His material base, like that of his author’s, is rapidly dwindling, and once deprived of his earth he will die. The Anglo-Irish landlords will similarly wither, or at least shift to Bournemouth, when their earth is removed from them, though that will demand rather more than a sprig of garlic and rather less than a stake through the heart. Dracula is a great Anglophile, given to pouring over maps of the metropolis and pathetically setting up home in - of all places - Purfleet. He is much preoccupied with legal documents, and when he is slashed with a knife it is coins, not blood, which cascade out of him. Dracula lives in a material world, and is therefore of necessity a material ghoul.’ (pp.140-41); ‘Joyce’s writing is the non-Irish speaking Irish writer’s way of being unintelligible to the British’ […] He was a heir to a set of cultural lineages for which realism, as the fruit of a developed colonialist civilisation, had never been anything but profoundly problematic.’ (p.146; see further also under Terry Eagleton.)

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