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Belonging in the Age of Global Crisis: The Fiction of Colum McCann

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posted on 03.07.2018, 15:12 by Alsahira Alkhayer
The critical reception of the fiction of Colum McCann does not go far beyond just noting the occurrence, and acknowledging the significance, of the author’s use of mythology in his short stories and novels. This research identifies and analyses several allusions to Celtic, Greek and Hindu mythologies in McCann’s work. It shows how mythological symbolism supports a cosmopolitan perspective on identity, by helping to cross political, economic, social and racial boundaries. It also shows that mythological allusions help the characters build a utopian world and overcome their immediate and global crises. The thesis groups McCann’s work into three settings according to its main geographical locations: Ireland, New York, and Central and Eastern Europe. My analysis shows McCann’s fiction associating the Irish Troubles and national and religious divisions with an apocalyptic motif which leads with no hope for change to a dead-end. Ancient Celtic concepts of the world-axis and the Otherworld represent a second chance for characters to believe in, even if only imaginary. The New York setting, characterized by class and racial hierarchy, is defied by invoking a circular pattern derived from mythological concepts such as the circular flow of time and the Crane dance. Art, ubiquitous in New York, works side by side with mythology to promote the possibility of a successfully pluralist society. The continental European setting also adopts mythology and performance art to challenge the crises of individualism under a totalitarian regime, ethnic discrimination and exile. McCann’s characters, this study argues, create a better reality by seeking to belong to a world which embraces human thought across different historical epochs and geographical areas.



Everett, Nick; Evans, Lucy

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Department of English

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University of Leicester

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