The Possibilities of Shame in Dermot Bolger's Tanglewood

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  • 1 University of Limerick
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Dermot Bolger's 2015 novel Tanglewood is one of a raft of literary responses to the demise of Ireland's recent economic ‘miracle’, the so-called ‘Celtic Tiger’. Bolger's narrative is deeply critical of the corrupted morality that characterised facets of the property ‘boom’, a corner of the Irish economy that underlay such a significant part of the economic buoyancy of the country. Consequently, Bolger mobilises shame as one part of his critical armoury, and in so doing he resurrects a familiar affect in the Irish context. However, Bolger's use of shame, and his suggestion that those who benefited most lavishly during Ireland's Celtic Tiger period should be shamed, and feel ashamed, are deeply conservative and self-defeating ways of confronting the aftermath of the economic recession in Ireland. As we note, Bolger's version of shame causes little more than personal isolation and familial fracture, and lacks any potential to partake of what we shall term ‘a revolutionary politics of shame’.

Contributor Notes

Eóin Flannery lectures in the Department of English Language and Literature at Mary Immaculate College, University of Limerick. He is the author of four books: Ireland and Ecocriticism: Literature, History, and Environmental Justice (2016); Colum McCann and the Aesthetics of Redemption (2011); Ireland and Postcolonial Studies: Theory, Discourse, Utopia (2009); and Versions of Ireland: Empire, Modernity and Resistance in Irish Culture (2006). His edited publications include Enemies of Empire: New Perspectives on Literature, History and Imperialism (2007); Ireland in Focus: Film, Photography and Popular Culture (2009); and This Side of Brightness: Essays on the Fiction of Colum McCann (2012). His next book, Debt, Guilt and Literary Forms in Post-Celtic Tiger Ireland, is forthcoming.


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