A moral map?: a thematic study of the poetry fo Paul Durcan
MetadataShow full item record
This thesis is a thematic study of a representative selection of the poetry of contemporary Irish poet Paul Durcan (b. 1944). It seeks to investigate the extent to which Durcan’s work might be interpreted as a ‘moral map’ (Grennan, 44). The term ‘moral map’ was introduced by Eamon Grennan and names an interpretive approach to the poet’s work approved by Durcan himself in interview with the current author (Appendix One). Central to an interpretation of Durcan’s work as a ‘moral map’ is the question of individual freedom: this is explicated fully in Chapter One and is present throughout the thesis. Following Chapter One the thesis is developed with reference to seven major areas of his poetry: Catholic identity; scapegoat imagery; politics; travel and transport; family of origin; chosen relationships; and poems of self-fashioning / self-dramatisation. A General Conclusion follows Chapter Eight. The transcript of an interview with Paul Durcan, conducted by the current author, appears after the General Conclusion and is referred to as ‘Appendix One’ throughout. Chapter One reviews Durcan’s academic and popular reception to date. A clear working definition of the term ‘moral map’ is developed. The scope and aims of the thesis are clearly defined as are the key terms invoked throughout the thesis. Chapter Two is an examination of Paul Durcan’s writing on the subject of Irish Catholicism. Firstly, poems in which Durcan orchestrates a clash between Church authorities and individual figures are explored. Secondly, poems about clerics and Church insiders. Thirdly, more celebratory poems which invoke the vocabulary and imagery of Catholicism are central. Chapter Three examines the interrelated subjects of the scapegoat and the mob in Durcan’s work. A theoretical framework, invoking the scholarship of René Girard, is developed. Durcan’s use of the scapegoat in two specific milieus is examined: firstly in situations where legal figures and trappings are present and secondly where the mob is more embedded in social structure. Finally, attention is paid to the remedies proposed by Durcan’s poetry in the face of this punishing dynamic. Chapter Four examines a representative selection of Durcan’s political poetry. Initially an examination of patriarchal control of the national narrative is conducted. The second and third chapters respectively deal with the poet’s writing on the subjects of violence against minority groups in the Irish Republic and violence in Northern Ireland. Chapter Five focuses on the subjects of travel and transport in Durcan’s poetry. It is proposed that both are central to his poetic. Extended attention is paid to Durcan’s volume Going Home to Russia as representative of his work in this area. The chapter’s final section deals with the effect of Durcan’s calculatedly broad and inclusive vision. Chapter Six is an examination of Durcan’s writing about the family with a focus on Daddy, Daddy and The Laughter of Mothers. Attention is paid to the socio-political status of the family in Durcan’s lifetime followed by a brief overview of some relevant biographical material. A close reading of representative poems from the two volumes named above is then conducted. Chapter Seven is a focus on the importance of relationality to Durcan’s ‘moral map’. Specific reference is made to the particular manner in which male-female relationships have become politicised during Durcan’s career. Close readings are then conducted of selected poems from The Berlin Wall Café and Cries of an Irish Caveman. Chapter Eight develops a concept named as Durcan’s theatre of the self. After an initial outlining of the terms, attention is paid respectively to the long poem ‘Christmas Day’ (CD, 5) and to Durcan’s relationship to the works of Samuel Beckett. The chapter concludes with remarks on some of Durcan’s later work, his development of a theatre of ‘mixed feelings’ (GHR, 88).
KeywordsDurcan, Paul (1944 -
Language (ISO 639-3)eng
PublisherMary Immaculate College, University of Limerick
This item is protected by original copyright: