‘As ucht a bhochtanais Ghaeiligh’: Parody, Poverty, and the Politics of Irish Folklore in An Béal Bocht



Gregory Darwin’s article takes its cue from the foreword to the third edition of An Béal Bocht, in which Myles na gCopaleen declares that ‘a copy of this book ought to be placed in every home where there is a love for Ireland’s “Seanchas”,’ the traditional oral modes of cultural folklore which were so vociferously venerated as hallmarks of an authentic Gaelic cultural identity by the Irish-language revival movement. Taking up this invitation to read An Béal Bocht and the seanchas side-by-side, Darwin finds that O’Nolan’s parodic treatment of the latter is deployed as a critique of an essentialist national identity forged on the back of a rural ‘poverty that urban intellectuals simultaneously praised and refused to experience for themselves.’ Plotting its way through several key episodes in An Béal Bocht - including the seal-hunt and Cat Mara episodes - the essay shows how O’Nolan exposes the material conditions of abject poverty experienced by the citizens of Corca Dorcha. Accordingly, Darwin positions O’Nolan as an author who exposes the asymmetrical relationship between the rural and the urban, between those who supposedly represent an authentic Irish culture and those who construct such notions of national identity.

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Keywords: nonhuman studies, material poverty, nationalism, Irish folklore, An Béal Bocht

How to Cite: Gregory Darwin, ‘"As ucht a bhochtanais Ghaeiligh": Parody, Poverty, and the Politics of Irish Folklore in An Béal Bocht', The Parish Review: Journal of Flann O'Brien Studies 4, no. 1 (Spring 2018): 23-39. Available at: None