Cóilín Owens was born in County Roscommon, Ireland, in 1943 and was educated at the University of Notre Dame, University College Dublin (now NUI Dublin) and Kent State University. He is Professor Emeritus of English at George Mason University, and has published extensively on Irish Drama, Maria Edgeworth, and variously on Joyce, Synge, and the Irish language. His books include Irish Drama: 1900-1980, ed., with Joan Radner (1990, 2003); Family Chronicle: Critical Essays on Maria Edgeworth’s Castle Rackrent, ed. (1987); and Irish/Gaeilge (1986, 1994). He is a past chairman of the Irish American Cultural Institute, co-founder and past chair of the Gaelic League and has retired to devote full energies to his work on Joyce’s work before Ulysses. The first of these projects, James Joyce’s Painful Case, was published in September 2007.
from Before Daybreak: “After the Race”
and the Origins of Joyce’s Art
When James Joyce has Leopold Bloom entertain a “[g]ood puzzle” to “cross Dublin without passing a pub” (U 4.129-30), he is parodying the remark attributed to Sir Edward Carson that he rejoiced in the thought that he could traverse the city without passing a single shop bearing an Irish Catholic surname. In Edwardian Dublin, almost every major business was owned by the Protestant and unionist ruling class. Nevertheless, the popular imagination was saturated with the pieties of their social inferiors, Irish Catholics: the rebels in the General Post Office prayed the rosary during lulls in the shelling, throngs of women knelt in prayer outside Kilmainham Gaol during the executions within, and more than 50 percent of the adult population were total abstainers from alcoholic beverages.
To the citizens of today’s Irish capital, the moral terrain of Edwardian Dublin is “another country.” Although the fine Lawrence Collection preserves a hoard of foxed images of period cityscapes, these “fadographs of a yestern scene” are eerily still, their denizens gazing apprehensively into an unknown future that we can effortlessly recollect. To imagine the orders of cloud–cirrus or cumulus–that blew through the minds behind those bland faces, we have to turn to the pages of the Freeman’s Journal, the Irish Times, the Leader, and the United Irishman. The younger citizens were perhaps most impressed by the sounds of military bands, the splendid sights of royal parades, or the novel odor of automobile exhaust. The older generation could remember the Famine, the Fenian rising, and the several recent outbreaks of typhus.
- Review of Before Daybreak: ‘After the Race’ and the Origins of Joyce’s Art by Frank Shovlin. Irish University Press. 2013.
Befitting Emblems of Adversity | April 17, 2007
Symposium I: Reception Politics