Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2011

Author's School

Graduate School of Arts and Sciences

Author's Department

English and American Literature

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Type



Irish Literature of the Second World War: The Stylistics of Neutralityconsiders the impact of the wartime languages of propaganda, censorship, and espionage on the work of major Irish-born writers, in order to close a literary-historical gap in the way that the Second World War has been read. Samuel Beckett, Elizabeth Bowen, Louis MacNeice, and Flann O'Brien came to artistic maturity during the war years, but their war-related work has often been read as either literature of the British Home Front (Bowen's novelThe Heat of the Dayand MacNeice's collection,Springboard) or absurdist work without a wartime context (Beckett'sWattand O'Brien'sThe Third Policeman). Countering a long-held cultural mandate that the experience of World War II was "alien" to neutral Ireland and its literature, recent scholarship on Irish wartime neutrality has paved the way for crucial rereadings of Irish wartime literature. This dissertation demonstrates that major works by these canonical Irish writers are also major literary works of the Second World War. I suggest that is because these Irish textsdotake on the vexed question of war, and more particularly of the ways war calls into question language's ability to function as a neutral conduit, that they constitute an important body of work. Characterized by stylistic contortions that challenge readability, the Irish literature of World War II challenges conventional definitions and geographies of the literature of war.


English (en)

Chair and Committee

Rafia Zafar

Committee Members

Miriam Bailin, Wayne Fields


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