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Werner Huber (Paderborn)

'Pig's Back' and 'Enchanted Isle': Irish Autobiographers and their I/Is/Ire/land

In Seven Winters: Memories of a Dublin Childhood (1942) the Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen remembers the feelings with which she used to consider what appeared to her as the paragon status of her native country and city: This equation based on a case of mistaken etymology presents an interesting reversal of perspective, as much postcolonial as it is ironic. Not only does it reverse the structural relationship of centre vs. margin, but, conceit-like, it also opens up the way for a host of associations regarding the "island of Ireland." From an etymological perspective it appears

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that islands like Ireland - and not only the Catholic Church, as James Joyce once observed - are founded upon a pun, or at least a paradox, as will be shown below.

At this point a digression into the realm of national psychology might not come amiss. It is worth noting that exactly twenty years before Elizabeth Bowen, in 1922, Ernest Jones, disciple and biographer of Freud, read a paper before the British Psycho-Analytical Society entitled "The Island of Ireland: A Psycho-Analytical Contribution to Political Psychology." Jones maintained that the way in which geographical insularity influences the mentality of islanders can be investigated on the level of subconscious associations. Particular complexes, as Jones claimed, "to which the idea of an island home tends to become attached are those relating to the ideas of woman, virgin, mother, and womb" (Jones 1951, 98). With island nations these associations carry an especially high emotional charge-or, as the Irish professor in Aidan Higgins's novel Lions of the Grunewald suggests, "'the smaller the island the bigger the neurosis'" (Higgins 1993, 191). The transformations this mythical deep structure can achieve are innumerable, and to illustrate this point it may simply suffice to recall the legion of myths and stories that have accrued round Mother Ireland, Cathleen Ni Houlihan, Roisin Dubh/Dark Rosaleen, the Hag of Beare, the Sean Bhean Bhocht/the Poor Old Woman, the Silk of the Kine, and the eponymous Irish goddesses Fodhla, Banba, and Eire.

According to Jones, the archetypal myth, the collective metaphor of Mother Ireland as national allegory, is determined by the idea of the island as the "womb of a virgin mother" (Jones 1951, 98). Jones goes on to isolate the cluster of uterine associations contained in this central metaphor. What he calls our "womb phantasies," "our deepest feelings about birth, death, and mother" (Jones 1951, 107), has correspondences in three different categories of islands as they are represented in Irish mythology and folk belief: (1) the Fortunate Isle, the Island Paradise, which corresponds to the period of complete gratification during intraÄuterine life; (2) the island of birth and rebirth, most directly a maternal image; (3) the abode of the dead, the Isle of the Blessed, the Land of the Young.

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It is not very difficult to see how via such a central reference point as the national magna mater all three types of vision are interrelated, how the images are polarised into birth and death. Furthermore, the "magical island" is not only a westward projection of the islanders but can also come to be conflated with the real Ireland and seriously influence one's perception of the island when approaching or leaving it. Jones concluded that it "seems almost impossible for Irishmen to express their feelings on political subjects without using imagery similar to that described above" (Jones 1951, 109), i.e. in terms of the emotional responses to the island home which are expressive of the national psyche.

To return to the realm of etymology - Gillian Beer, in an article on Virginia Woolf, England, and the island topos, not only stated the obvious when she pointed out that "the concept 'island' implies a particular and intense relationship of land and water," but also drew attention to the fact that the word 'island' "is a kind of pun" (Beer 1990, 271). While the origins and meaning of the second part of the word are obvious, the first part can be traced back to Old English ea/ieg (Gothic *alwa, Latin aqua) denoting 'water.' In strictly rhetorical terms the compound "island" as 'water-land' could thus be called an oxymoron, a paradox even. A binary structure of this sort could in turn be seen as running parallel to the psychological polarization of the island idea in the birth/death dichotomy. And this would furthermore prepare us for the often ambivalent responses from Irish writers who are obsessed with the island character of Ireland and who utilize it as a structural metaphor for wider issues of individual and national importance.

The theory has been advanced that the close identification between personal and national aspirations may be the single most defining feature of Irish autobiography, especially in the 20th century (Reilly 1981; Kenneally 1989). If we accept this theory and if we remember the words of Ernest Jones about the ways in which Irishmen and Irishwomen express their political

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feelings in terms of national allegory, we will find that Irish autobiography is perhaps the one genre in Irish literature in which the associations of I/Is/Ire/land are most clearly focused: "I was Ireland [...]," as Seán O'Faoláin declared in autobiographical retrospect (1993, 165).

The linking of self and nation implies that Irish autobiographers have recourse to allegoric representations of their country as the "central metaphor" of the self. One half of Jones's argument, i.e. a female archetype as national allegory, is covered or supported by some of the more obvious strategies Irish autobiographers are fond of employing. Examples can be picked more or less at random. George Moore in his introduction to Hail and Farewell says that he is writing for Banva (Banba) as Mother Ireland's amanuensis, as it were, and in his record of the Irish Renaissance, which is intertwined with his life-story, he is doing just that. In the autobiographies of W.B. Yeats and Sean O'Casey blows are struck for Cathleen Ni Houlihan. She also looms large in James Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) - for example, as the peasant woman at the half-door in Davin's story or as the ethereal girl with emerald associations, the Celtic muse, whom Stephen Dedalus beholds on Dollymount Strand. Not to mention the most obvious example of all - Edna O'Brien's Mother Ireland, in which the author's life-story is connected with an 'oversexed' national allegory of Ireland's history as a history of violation and forced possession.

In comparison with such instances of national allegory, 'island' imagery, 'island' motifs, and 'island' topoi may, at first sight, appear to be less obvious in Irish autobiographies, but only falsely so. George Moore, early on in Hail and Farewell, describes what could be termed an archetypal experience of Ireland's island nature. Moore, on his self-appointed mission to strengthen the cause of the Irish Renaissance, is returning to Ireland by sea and eagerly awaiting the first glimpse of his native land:

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In Irish myth and folklore the story behind the legend taken up by Moore here is that of the mythological people of the Tuatha De Danann putting a spell on the land of Ireland in order to hide it from the invading Milesians, the later Gaels, who could only see "land the size of a pig's back [...] and a black pig at that" (Curtin 1894, 301). The Black Pig serves a representation of the land of Ireland under a curse, a spell, or in a moment of crisis. In this context it has been pointed out that Muc Inis ('Pig Island') is also an ancient name for Ireland. In folk mythology, reference is frequently made to the Black Pig's Dyke, a series of earthworks which roughly constitutes the southern border of the province of Ulster, and the appearance of the Black Pig is generally taken as a warning against an imminent Armageddon (O'Malley 1979, 84-85). W.B. Yeats, in one of his Celtic Twilight poems from The Winds Among the Reeds (1899), actually used the Black Pig as a multi-dimensional symbol of apocalypse (Alderson Smith 1987, 240-242).

In many cases, the double vision of Ireland as either a pig's back or as an enchanted isle or as both serves as an objective correlative. It mirrors the highly ambivalent responses of Irish writers to their mother country. These responses - most superficially on the immediately biographical level - result in exile and return and are themselves images of the double expectations of rejuvenation/paradise and/or (spiritual) death.

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The structural possibilities inherent in the island topos are amply demonstrated in George Moore's Hail and Farewell, published in three parts as Ave (1911), Salve (1912), and Vale (1914). The titles themselves point to the basic design. Such structures (whether we call them polar, dialogic, dialectical, antagonistic, binary, paradoxical, systolic/diastolic) pervade the whole text. They can best be seen in Moore's attitudes towards Ireland oscillating between hatred and love. For example, one may compare his motivation in writing Parnell and His Ireland (1887) vis-á-vis Hail and Farewell, derogatory and defeatist the one, missionary and zealous at times the other. The changes of locale motivated by Moore's feelings of odi et amo or nec tecum nec sine te follow the same pattern. After his voluntary exile in Paris and London Moore returns to Ireland only to say farewell again when he realizes that his mission has failed. His sympathies for the cause of the Irish Renaissance are gradually eroded by his archetypal, almost racially motivated rejection of the 'aboriginal Other' represented in the quotation above by the figure of the old peasant. As a member of the landed gentry Moore is naturally in opposition to the Irish-speaking peasants.

Born a Catholic, Moore turned agnostic at the age of 16, and later, in 1903, toyed with the idea of publicly declaring himself a Protestant as a way of demonstrating against the anti-nationalism of the Roman Church (Moore 1985, 436, 458, 669-670). The Boer War is for once the catalytic moment, the excuse for Moore to leave England - imperialist England with its culture marked by sheer brutality and crude materialism - for Ireland, only to realize that Irish culture has been utterly ruined by Catholicism and is now beyond repair. This insight is foreshadowed by an imitation of Wagnerian leitmotifs so typical of Moore's style when early on in Ave a variation is played upon Moore's original formula and an aggressive substitution of paradigms takes place. In conversation with Yeats, Moore proclaims, "I looked forward to finding Ireland a land of endless enchantment, but so far as I can see at present Ireland isn't bigger than a priest's back" (Moore 1985, 116).

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Moore's initial reservations, his hesitating before going over to Ireland and before leaving it, go hand in hand with the strategies of self-mockery and irony, which exploit these dialectical structures to the full. That Moore leaves everything in abeyance and circumspectly avoids any synthesis or solution endows Hail and Farewell with a unique sense of dynamism. His technique of digression and free association does not leave any position as unassailable or definitive. Before Moore's final farewell, when he leaves Ireland from Kingstown Harbour, one is never sure what a new biographical twist of fate might bring.

It is highly significant that Moore's final valediction takes up the words from Catullus with one significant change - the substitution of 'mother' for 'brother': "ATQUE IN PERPETUUM, MATER, AVE ATQUE VALE" (Moore 1985, 644). Thus, his farewell from 'Mother Ireland' shows how strongly Moore relies on the matter of Ireland as well as the allegorical and structural associations of its island character for the reconstruction of his personal history and identity.

'Farewell to Ireland' is also an important autobiographical motive for Stephen Dedalus alias James Joyce. It takes a central position in Stephens's triad of "silence, exile, and cunning" (Joyce 1968, 247). Stephen makes it very clear what his negative credo or "nego" implies. In an emotional outburst he delivers his verdict on his motherland using the negative image inscribed by tradition in the double view of Ireland: "'Ireland is the old sow that eats her farrow'" (Joyce 1968, 203). Trying to flee from his "Mother," "Mother Church," and "Mother Ireland" seems to be the only option left to him at first. His evocation of symbolic polarities, Dublin vs. the West of Ireland (home of the old Gaelic speaker whose "redrimmed horny eyes" he fears) and Europe vs. Ireland ("an afterthought of Europe"), points in the same direction. As is already evident in Stephen Hero, Europe and exile from Ireland signify first and foremost an avenue to personal and artistic liberation. Having flown by the nets of "nationality, language,

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religion" (Joyce 1968, 203) Stephen expects to finds his identity there. Nevertheless, it is largely through his artistic career that Stephen Dedalus/James Joyce will eventually prove that his spiritual and emotional ties with his island home are never completely severed, that he will always return, if only in the spirit, creatively and nostalgically, to "forge in the smithy of his soul the uncreated conscience of [his] race" (Joyce 1968, 253).

The ambivalence of exile and return, which is structurally derived from the island topos, is nowhere better expressed than in the cryptic sentence with which Stephen tries to explain to his friend Davin the motive for his self-imposed exile: "Told him the shortest way to Tara was via Holyhead" (Joyce 1968, 250). George Moore incidentally seems to have supplied a pre-text for Joyce's often-quoted formula: Musing about one of his acquaintances Moore says, "he is pure Turgenev, and perhaps Ireland is a little Russia in which the longest way round is always the shortest way home, and the means more important than the end" (Moore 1985, 124-125). It is perhaps no coincidence either that Moore literally undertook the trip to Tara, the seat of the High Kings and the centre of power in ancient Ireland. As Moore represents it in Salve, Chapters II-IV, he went there on a bicycle and in the company of AE (George W. Russell), but he also went there at least a second time together with W.B. Yeats and Douglas Hyde in the summer of 1902, when unauthorized excavations taking place at the ancient site received much publicity and caused a public uproar.

Liam O'Flaherty was born on Inishmore, the largest of the Aran Islands in the same year (1896) that W.B. Yeats first visited this group of Islands 'behind' the island of Ireland. (The Aran Islands eventually made their mark when Yeats advised the young writer John Millington Synge to go there and cast around for subjects adequate for a nascent Irish literature in English.) As a point of departure and as a point of return the Aran Islands occupy a central role in the structural pattern of 'exodus and return' that characterizes O'Flaherty's autobiographical

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trilogy of Two Years (1930), I Went to Russia (1931), and Shame the Devil (1934). While the former two, which are also travelogues of sorts, record O'Flaherty's spiritual unrest and years of wandering as an angry young man, the latter fully concentrates on the personal and artistic crisis that he experienced in 1933.

The central autobiographical conflict in Shame the Devil is, as also suggested by Two Years, the conflict within oppositional structures and between antagonistic forces such as self (ego) vs. anti-self (superego), self vs. mask, individual vs. society, the artist's loneliness vs. the desire to 'belong,' to be part of the 'tribe,' the mob. The solution which O'Flaherty presents is rather predictable, but quite rich in geo-psychological associations. It comes to him on an island off the Breton coast: "An islander to his island" (O'Flaherty 1981, 197). O'Flaherty's anti-self personified as a voice and acting as a kind of mediator makes an important proposal for the future of O'Flaherty's career and art: it is imperative that he return to a 'natural,' unalienated life. However, such a return does not necessarily lead into idyllic pastoralism, but to the acceptance of a nature concept that embraces the pitiless fight for survival in all its cruelty and beauty.

The suggestion proposed by his doppelgänger self, i.e. to turn his back on civilization, "the artificial sewers of the cities" (O'Flaherty 1981, 21), also implies the geographical direction in which O'Flaherty must seek his personal and artistic identity. As in the perhaps more famous case of Yeats, who pitted his native Sligo against the metropolis of London, O'Flaherty's roots in the West of Ireland constitute a vanishing point in more than one sense. The Aran Islands

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provide O'Flaherty not only with authentic subject-matter, but also with the kind of image O'Flaherty can most readily accept for himself, i.e. that of the islandman who is able to stand up to nature: The early admonitions of his superego to return to the Aran Islands do not differ at all from the final one, which is to lead him out of the artistic crisis. Thus, Shame the Devil shows little biographical movement overall, despite the construction of highly dramatic contrasts in a kind of psychomachy between various manifestations of O'Flaherty's self. In psychological terms, the solution of O'Flaherty's biographical crisis, his going back to the island behind the island, as it were, is hardly astonishing and as such highly symptomatic of the autobiographer's neurotic state. In a way, the return to his origins is a retreat from a hostile world in which he finds it very hard to adapt, in which he cannot take root, as the abrupt changes in his allegiance to various ideological systems show. The circular movement-from the Aran Islands as a source of inspiration at the beginning of O'Flaherty's career to his return to Aran and a natural life - underlines how central the self-image of the "Islandman" is, not only to O'Flaherty's (auto-)biography but also to the whole of his oeuvre, its subjects and motifs (viz. his nature and animal stories).

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What has been demonstrated here in three exemplary cases might be pursued in a number of other Irish autobiographies, i.e. the question of how the structural complexities of a 'water-land' like Ireland are reflected in the interplay of exile and return, of rejection and acceptance. Structurally and thematically speaking, the motifs of 'leaving the island' and/or 'returning to the island' seem to make for key scenes in a wide range of Irish autobiographies. There are the emotionally charged, i.e. melancholy, scenes when the island fades from the view of the 'exiled' autobiographer, as for instance, in John Mitchel's Jail Journal (1854) or at the end of Sean O'Casey's Inishfallen, Fare Thee Well (1949), that part of his autobiography which brings to a close his 'Irish years.' Compare this with the enchantment and the thematic significance of the first glimpse of the island in, for example, Katherine Tynan's memoirs The Middle Years (1916) or Brendan Behan's Borstal Boy (1958), when the narrator, at the end of his prison term in England and at the end of the most formative phase in his biography, returns to Ireland a mature person.

It has often been noted that, following the example set by Stephen Dedalus/James Joyce, 'exile' is a necessary pre-condition for Irish artists, and it may now almost sound like a truism to say, as George Moore did," [...] that an Irishman must fly from Ireland if he would be himself" (Moore 1985, 56) or, in the words of Frank O'Connor, that "every Irishman's private life begins in Holyhead" (O'Connor 1962, 86). In this vein it is rather difficult to underestimate or ignore the island topos as an essential element contributing to the identity of Irishmen and Irishwomen in bios and graphe, in life and life-writing.

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Works Cited:

Alderson Smith, Peter. 1987. W.B. Yeats and the Tribes of Danu: Three Views of Ireland's Fairies. Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe.
Beer, Gillian. 1990. "The Island and the Aeroplane: The case of Virginia Woolf." Nation and Narration. Ed. Homi K. Bhabha. London: Routledge. 265-290.
Bowen, Elizabeth. 1971. Seven Winters: Memories of a Dublin Childhood [1942]. Rpt. Shannon: IUP.
Curtin, Jeremiah, coll. 1894. Hero-Tales of Ireland. Boston: Little, Brown.
Harris, E. Lynn. 1986. "The Island as a Mental Image of Withdrawal, Used in a Literary Work,
D.H. Lawrence's 'The Man Who Loved Islands'." Imagery 2. Ed. David G. Russell, David F.
Marks, John T. Richardson. Dunedin: Human Performance Assocs. 178-181.
Higgins, Adrian. 1993. Lions of the Grunewald. London: Secker & Warburg.
Huber, Werner. 1995a. "I was Ireland": Eine imagologische Studie zu irischen Autobiographien des 20. Jahrhunderts. [Habilitationsschrift University of Paderborn]. Forthcoming.
Huber, Werner. 1995b. "Self-Fashioning in the Irish Renaissance: Moore, Joyce, and the Autobiographical Intertext." Anglistentag 1994 Graz: Proceedings. Ed. Wolfgang Riehle and Hugo Keiper. Tübingen: Niemeyer. 77-86.
Jones, Ernest. 1951. "The Island of Ireland: A Psycho-Analytical Contribution to Political
Psychology [1922]." Essays in Applied Psycho-Analysis. 2 vols. London: Hogarth. I: 95-112.
Joyce, James. 1968. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. Ed. Chester G. Anderson. New York: Viking Press.
Kenneally, Michael. 1989. "The Autobiographical Imagination and Irish Literary
Autobiographies." Critical Approaches to Anglo-Irish Literature. Ed. Michael Allen and Angela Wilcox. Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe. 111-131
. Moore, George. 1985. Hail and Farewell. Ed. Richard Cave. 2nd ed. Gerrards Cross: Colin Smythe.
O'Connor, Frank. 1962. [Interview]. Monitor: An Anthology. Ed. Huw Wheldon. London: Macdonald. 79-87.
O'Faoláin, Seán. 1993. Vive Moi!. Ed. Julia O'Faoláin. London: Sinclair-Stevenson.
O'Flaherty, Liam. 1973. Joseph Conrad: An Appreciation [1925]. Rpt. New York: Haskell

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O'Flaherty, Liam. 1981. Shame the Devil [1934]. Dublin: Wolfhound.
Olney, James. 1972. Metaphors of Self: The Meaning of Autobiography Princeton: Princeton UP.
O'Malley, Ernie. 1979. On Another Man's Wound [1936]. Dublin: Anvil Books.
Reilly, Kevin Patrick. 1981. "Irish Literary Autobiography: The Goddesses That Poets Dream Of." Éire-Ireland 16.3: 57-80.

Werner Huber
FB 3: Anglistik
Universität Paderborn
Warburger Str. 100
D-33095 Paderborn