Re-envisioning the Rising: Irish Literary Memories of 1916

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This thesis examines literary memories of the 1916 Easter Rising at crucial moments of commemoration in order to trace developments in the cultural memory of this seminal event in Irish history. Memory studies provide the theoretical framework for this study, which aims to lay bare the reconceptualisations of the memory of 1916 as expressed in Sean O’Casey’s The Plough and the Stars (1926), Iris Murdoch’s The Red and the Green (1965), and Roddy Doyle’s A Star Called Henry (1999), and examines their role in the construction of Irish cultural identities. O’Casey’s play bears witness to an unprecedented irreverence with which it punctures the myths surrounding the Rising. Murdoch’s novel aims to do justice to the different narratives and memories of 1916 before celebrating it as a just victory against colonial oppression. Doyle’s work, which represents the alleged heroic fight for Irish independence as a capitalist takeover which failed to overthrow the traditional gender and class hierarchies, offers an alternative reading to undermine sanctioned historiography and to demonstrate the highly selective and subjective nature of memories. Ultimately, in all their diversity, these texts testify to the plurality, fluidity and malleability of cultural memory.
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