Dindsenchas, Mr Deasy, and the nightmare of partition in Ulysses

2015-11-03T12:07:56Z (GMT) by Anne Marie D'Arcy
In creating the character of Garrett Deasy, James Joyce exploits the significance of his surname in the dindsenchas tradition, unknown to Deasy himself, if not to Stephen Dedalus. Drawing on the divergent meanings of Déisi according to James Henthorn Todd, Marie-Henri d’Arbois de Jubainville and Whitley Stokes, Joyce comments obliquely on Deasy's provenance and politics. Deasy is not an Ulsterman or necessarily an Orangeman, as commonly assumed, but typical of Dublin's unionist bourgeoisie, and representative of an older, Tory tradition of southern unionism, growing progressively more enervated. By contrast, Stephen's internal monologue, allied to Deasy's treatment in ‘Circe’, point to the increasingly militant, separatist direction of Ulster unionism leading up to the Great War and partition. Although Deasy is not anti-Catholic, he is anti-Semitic, but due to his ignorance of the meaning of his name, he fails to see the implicit irony in his loathing of Jews as a subject, fugitive, wandering people.

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