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Writing Modern Ireland$
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Catherine E Paul

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780989082693

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9780989082693.001.0001

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date: 18 January 2019

The Politics of Pity in Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way

The Politics of Pity in Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way

(p.67) The Politics of Pity in Sebastian Barry’s A Long Long Way
Writing Modern Ireland

Liam Harte

Liverpool University Press

This essay examines Sebastian Barry's 2005 novel A Long Long Way, focusing on his representation of Irish characters—the southern Catholic protagonists—who fought for Britain in World War I, and whose sacrifices went long unacknowledged by Ireland. In A Long Long Way, Barry seeks not only to advance his project of enlarging the terms upon which Irishness is constituted but also to elevate World War I to a tragic status it has never attained within postcolonial Irish culture. This essay looks at the textual strategies Barry employs to achieve these ends. It suggests that A Long Long Way is in many respects closer to the nineteenth-century model of historical fiction in its realistic interleaving of the fictional and the factually historic. It also critiques Barry's reliance on sentimentality and sanctification, arguing that they foreground “the problematic aesthetic and polemical aspects” of the novel, resulting in the simplification of its subjects and a diminishment of its empathic and experiential power.

Keywords:   historical fiction, Sebastian Barry, A Long Long Way, Britain, World War I, Irishness, sentimentality, sanctification, Ireland

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