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James Stephens's Diminutive National Narratives: Imagining an Irish Nation Based on the "Orient"

James Stephens's Diminutive National Narratives: Imagining an Irish Nation Based on the "Orient" JAMES STEPHENS'S DIMINUTIVE NATIONAL NARRATIVES: IMAGINING AN IRISH NATION BASED ON THE "ORIENT" Joseph Lennon Critics usually regard James Stephens as one of the most whimsical and entertaining of the modernist Irish writers. Consequently, his writings are rarely read for their social and national impUcations. While whimsy certainly comprises much of his poetry and prose writings,1 a good portion of Stephens's work, particularly his later short stories, portrays social reaUties of early twentieth-century Ireland. In these stories Stephens's characters struggle against poverty, unemployment and class subjugation amidst tropes of Indian and Irish mythology. Throughout his career, Stephens wove myth into reahstic stories seeking to construct narratives of the emerging Irish nation. These narratives borrow heavily not only from versions of Irish myth, but also from OrientaUst versions of "Eastern" philosophy and mythology. Stephens used these mythological and philosophical tropes to represent Ireland's present in hopes of writing Ireland's national narrative. In this respect, his works provide a complex and specificaUy Irish answer to Homi K. Bhabha's rhetorical question: "How does one write the nation's modernity as the event of the everyday and the advent of the epochal?" ("DissemiNation" 293). Stephens's stories of his "nation's modernity" were written on http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png The Comparatist University of North Carolina Press

James Stephens's Diminutive National Narratives: Imagining an Irish Nation Based on the "Orient"

The Comparatist , Volume 20 (1) – Oct 3, 1996

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Publisher
University of North Carolina Press
Copyright
Copyright © Southern Comparative Literature Association.
ISSN
1559-0887
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Abstract

JAMES STEPHENS'S DIMINUTIVE NATIONAL NARRATIVES: IMAGINING AN IRISH NATION BASED ON THE "ORIENT" Joseph Lennon Critics usually regard James Stephens as one of the most whimsical and entertaining of the modernist Irish writers. Consequently, his writings are rarely read for their social and national impUcations. While whimsy certainly comprises much of his poetry and prose writings,1 a good portion of Stephens's work, particularly his later short stories, portrays social reaUties of early twentieth-century Ireland. In these stories Stephens's characters struggle against poverty, unemployment and class subjugation amidst tropes of Indian and Irish mythology. Throughout his career, Stephens wove myth into reahstic stories seeking to construct narratives of the emerging Irish nation. These narratives borrow heavily not only from versions of Irish myth, but also from OrientaUst versions of "Eastern" philosophy and mythology. Stephens used these mythological and philosophical tropes to represent Ireland's present in hopes of writing Ireland's national narrative. In this respect, his works provide a complex and specificaUy Irish answer to Homi K. Bhabha's rhetorical question: "How does one write the nation's modernity as the event of the everyday and the advent of the epochal?" ("DissemiNation" 293). Stephens's stories of his "nation's modernity" were written on

Journal

The ComparatistUniversity of North Carolina Press

Published: Oct 3, 1996

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