The Prison of Language: Brian O’Nolan, An Béal Bocht, and Language Determinism



Rather than reaffirming An Béal Bocht’s status as a parody of other Irish-language texts, Radvan Markus bridges the gap between An Béal Bocht as Gaelic satire and the postmodernism of O’Nolan’s English-language novels At Swim-Two-Birds and The Third Policeman. The essay explores the influence of German pre-Romantic and Romantic philosophers, such as Johann Gottfried Herder and Wilhelm von Humboldt, on the language revival movements which swept through Europe in the 18th and 19th centuries. Markus’s essay thus places O’Nolan’s works in Irish into a productive critical dialogue with continental philosophies of language and cultural identity. In doing so, Markus argues that An Béal Bocht exhibits many of the same literary and linguistic postmodern tropes found in O’Nolan’s English-language novels: ‘An Béal Bocht should be regarded as an important precursor to postmodernism in exactly the same way as O’Nolan’s English writing is nowadays seen.’

Keywords: & Language Determinism, Wilhelm von Humboldt, Johann Gottfried Herder, Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, ‘Aistear Pheadair Dhuibh’, Revivalism, postmodernism, Language Determinism, An Béal Bocht

How to Cite: Markus, R. (2018) “The Prison of Language: Brian O’Nolan, An Béal Bocht, and Language Determinism”, The Parish Review: Journal of Flann O'Brien Studies. 4(1). doi: