Week 5 abstracts
Wednesday 22nd October
“Under the Hazel Trees”:
The Myth of Childhood in Rosemary Sutcliff’s The Hound of Ulster
Irish children’s literature is fundamentally influenced by the connection between stories, landscape and identity. This paper will examine the relationship between sacredness and profanity as expressed in the mythic childhood of the warrior Cuchlainn, a childhood fundamentally centred and grounded in the landscape of Ulster.
We tell stories to understand the landscape we encounter and to place or even stabilize ourselves within it. We repeat stories, not only by the act of re-telling but sometimes through re-enactment as well; through journeys within this narrated landscape. As both a setting and a context, the landscape retains and remembers the events which occur in it and is in turn memorialized by the stories which endure as these events and experiences are narrated and remembered. If we interact with the landscape through narratives, through the act of shared narration and the process of re-telling, and if the Irish landscape is so rich with stories, myths and legends – are we not necessarily re-enacting or even re-actualising those narratives as collective lived experiences? Can we not access the narrated experience through interaction with the landscape?
This paper will explore the ways in which child warrior Cuchlainn moves through the landscape of Ulster and how his interaction with that landscape and with his own natural and supernatural heritage influences the development of his identity.
In focusing on this movement through a mythic landscape by a child figure, this paper will explore the construction of identity and the primacy of landscape in Irish children’s literature.
Lolita in Paradise: Nabokov and the mythologies of corrupt femininity
This paper examines the prevalence of Edenic imagery in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita with particular focus on the implications for the gendered subject within this narrative framework. It develops a theory that the author’s engagement with a specifically Miltonic vision of Paradise works to promote a gender dichotomy that naturalises the Otherness of woman, affirms her secondariness to man, and denounces her as vile temptress and origin of sin. It hypothesises that Nabokov’s authorial presence via the devices of heightened narrative coincidence, wordplay, and his anagrammatic double, Vivian Darkbloom, places him as the god figure in the “small Eden” of the novel, where he creates Humbert Humbert, displaced European intellectual, in his image, and has him straddle the roles of Adam—the innocent and beguiled victim of feminine corruption, and Satan—master rhetorician. To his Adam, Nabokov presents Eve in Lolita; a girl-object manifested not of his rib but of his desire. Her creation, like Eve’s, is ancillary and derivative of her male counterpart. I argue that while Humbert’s first person narrative immerses the reader in male subjective experience and reveals Nabokov’s favouritism for his primary creation—his first man, Lolita is ultimately unknowable in this novel that bears her name. She is a composite character, connoted through legend and stereotypes borrowed from a Judaeo-Christian creation myth that canonises the notion of the femme fatale and the culpability of woman in the Fall of man.