Comic Irishman, The
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The Comic Irishman makes heretofore unacknowledged distinctions among different types of comic Irishmen and convincingly casts away the stereotyped version of the stage Irishman. It shows how the Irish comic character—whether a blundering fool or a lazy, fun-loving fellow—evolved into a glib and witty rogue.
The book is a critical study of modern Irish fiction and drama. The first part provides an analysis of the various Irish comic figures which were popular in the nineteenth century. These are discussed within a social and historic framework because they were to a large extent shaped by the erosion of Gaelic culture under the impact of English government. In the process of shifting from one cultural nexus to another, the Irishman came to be regarded as highly inferior to his English counterpart, yet amusing because of his difficulty with the English language and his rebellious, unpredictable behavior.
The second part of the book discusses the writings of such twentieth-century authors as James Joyce, Samuel Beckett, Sean O'Casey, and Flann O'Brien, who concentrated on the analysis of the stage Irishman. Some brilliantly exploited the comic tradition, while other used satire to explode what they perceived as a debasing myth.
Maureen Waters is Assistant Professor of English at Queens College of the City University of New York.