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The pastoral mode in the writing of Dermot Healy

Costello, Liza (2023) The pastoral mode in the writing of Dermot Healy. PhD thesis, Dublin City University.

In this thesis, I address the dearth of scholarly engagement with the work of the late Irish writer, Dermot Healy. In doing so, I utilise the concept of pastoral as a mode, which I apply to his memoir, short fiction, novels and poetry. In a critical review of the scholarly engagement with the concept of pastoral, I argue that it is a mode of lasting value to literature, presenting a means of engaging seriously with themes such as dispossession and grief, that its inherent flexibility make it a valuable ‘lens’ through which to engage with a body of work as challenging and eclectic as that of Healy, and that the rapidly evolving field of ecocriticism owes a debt to the pastoral mode. This is followed by an in-depth engagement with Healy’s writing, in which the pastoral mode is used as a framework for elucidating themes and preoccupations. His only memoir, The Bend for Home, is shown to share many traits with classic pastoral, such as a complex urban–rural divide and themes of grief and a lost Golden Age. In the short stories, we find a deeply anti-pastoral strain, reflected in rejections of the pastoral idyll in portraits of the natural world that emphasise human vulnerability. The novel A Goat’s Song is considered as a pastoral elegy, in which we see its protagonist Jack Ferris successfully work through his grief over the loss of Catherine. Regarding the poetry, we find that while the early work, like the memoir, is characterised by classic pastoral traits, the last two volumes, in particular A Fool’s Errand, reveal a distinctly post-pastoral sensibility. This is also the defining characteristic identified in Healy’s final novel, Long Time, No See, which was written during the same ten-year time period as A Fool’s Errand and which is presented here as an example of ecological art.
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Date of Award:March 2023
Supervisor(s):Fryatt, Kit and Hinds, Michael
Uncontrolled Keywords:pastoral; poetry; ecocriticism; irish; dermot healy; 20th century; memoir; novel
Subjects:Humanities > Literature
DCU Faculties and Centres:DCU Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Science > School of English
Funders:DCU School of English
ID Code:28030
Deposited On:31 Mar 2023 13:05 by Kit Fryatt . Last Modified 08 Feb 2024 04:30

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